Weight Loss Device That Partially Locks Jaw Has People Comparing It to Medieval Torture (UPDATE)

The intraoral device was detailed in a news release by the University of Otago and U.K. researchers earlier this month, causing immediate controversy.


Image via Getty/University of Otago


UPDATED 7/1, 7:30 a.m. ET: When reached by Complex for additional comment, a spokesperson for the University of Otago shared an extended statement that said—in part—that researchers are anticipating the controversial device’s primary use will be for those who need to quickly lose weight ahead of a general anesthesia.

“It’s important to note that this device is simply a tool available for those who want it, People will not be forced to use it—it’s a choice—and it’s a decision that a person would be able to make for themselves in consultation with medical professionals,” Professor Brunton said in the new statement, adding that the team acknowledges “this won’t be for everyone.”

In the new statement, researchers also specifically acknowledged the fact that the device had received negative feedback. The team, however, claimed they’ve also received correspondence from people aiming to be part of the next clinical trial, as well as words of support from “other medical professionals.”

See original story below.

A newly announced so-called “weight loss device,” an intra-oral contraption fitted to a person’s upper and lower back teeth, has received widespread pushback from those concerned that it could reinforce potentially dangerous ideas about health.

Earlier this week, the University of Otago in New Zealand and U.K. researchers announced they had developed what’s billed as “a world-first weight loss device to help fight the global obesity epidemic.” The device, named the DentalSlim Diet Control, utilizes magnets and custom-made locking bolts that—as photos show—restricts a person to a liquid diet.

While the device is said not to restrict one’s breathing or ability to communicate verbally, it is capable of being removed for emergency and—per lead researcher Paul Brunton—the device can be “repeatedly” fitted by a dentist and removed.

“The main barrier for people for successful weight loss is compliance and this helps them establish new habits, allowing them to comply with a low-calorie diet for a period of time. It really kickstarts the process,” Brunton, a University of Otago professor who was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Health Sciences in 2018, said in a press release.

Brunton also said the device offers an “attractive alternative” to surgery with “no adverse consequences.” Critics, however, have vehemently challenged these claims.

Several experts spoke out against the device in a Washington Post piece penned by Caroline Anders on Tuesday. Among them was the National Eating Disorders Association’s associate communications director, Chelsea Kronengold, who called the device a “barbaric” contraption. Others criticized it for oversimplifying the obesity issue, arguably putting wearers at risk of harm, and more.

That criticism has also extended to the general public. Several concerned parties liken the device to “torture” while also connecting it to a history of similarly extreme weight loss projects. 

Though the CDC and other health-focused agencies here in the States do indeed link obesity to several serious conditions, high blood pressure and heart disease among them, the consensus is that losing weight works best (and is safer) when done so at a more gradual and steady pace. Additionally, losing weight in that fashion sets one up for a higher chance of keeping the weight off.

“Healthy weight loss isn’t just about a ‘diet’ or ‘program,’” the CDC says in its current weight loss guidance. “It’s about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.”

Complex reached out to the University of Otago for additional comment on the DentalSlim Diet Control device—the full details of which are available here—and will update this post accordingly.

Below, see some of the criticisms that have been raised in response to the device’s recent unveiling.

I’d shove a baguette up my ass u can’t stop me https://t.co/8tt5kRZxhL

— raina (@quakerraina) June 28, 2021

there is no global obesity epidemic. obesity is an arbitrary designation dependent on the BMI, which is not applicable to most of the global population for many reasons.

the reality is more people die from hunger than "obesity" even in the UK. Where is the funding towards that? https://t.co/m1dimUV4lg

— Sebastián (@EmojiPapi) June 28, 2021

the researchers: https://t.co/X1298ei7I7 pic.twitter.com/kiu8v8UPnx

— trndytrndy (@trndytrndy) June 28, 2021

or maybe idk.. make healthier food accessible??? https://t.co/3w4zCXUwR6

— ulysses (@o_li_si) June 28, 2021

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