Weight loss devices
have no magnetic
pull on Saskia Murphy

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You can always rely on the weight loss industry to come up with a new form of subtle human torture. It started in the early 18th century when one of the first prominent dieticians, the English doctor George Cheyne, invented a diet consisting solely of milk and vegetables to tackle his own obesity, later recommending the regime to others who wanted to shed a few pounds.

In 1918 American physician and columnist Lulu Hunt Peters introduced the world to calorie counting with her book Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories.

And so the cycle of misery was born. When Hunt Peters’ book was published the concept of the calorie was so new the publishers even provided instructions on how the word was pronounced.

But these days the calorie doesn’t need an introduction. Since Hunt Peters’ book hit the shelves 103 years ago the word has firmly embedded itself into the psyche of every person looking to drop a dress size, “fight the flab”,
or quite simply shrink.

In 2014 it was estimated that there were over 1,000 weight loss diets and fads promising the key to everlasting thinness, with various contradicting methods ranging from low carbohydrate, low fat, low calorie and fasting to detox, cabbage soup, keto, juicing and the paleo diet.

All of the above vary in effectiveness and the level of emotional and physical torment involved, but none are quite as horrifying as “world-first” weight loss tool the DentalSlim Diet Control, unveiled to the world last week.

The device, developed by scientists from Leeds and medical professionals from the University of Otago in New Zealand uses magnets to stop people from opening their mouths wide enough to eat solid food.

Marketed as a tool to help fight the global obesity epidemic, the device – which only lets the wearer open their mouths by about 2mm – is designed to be fitted by dentists and uses magnetic components with locking bolts in an effort to restrict people to a liquid diet.

Read that again. Just imagine: magnets, fitted in your teeth, to effectively clamp your mouth shut so you can consume little more than blended vegetables.

During trials on seven otherwise healthy obese women, who used the devices for two weeks, the group lost weight – a mean amount of 6.36kg, or about 5.1 per cent of their body weight on average.

But of course they were utterly miserable. Participants complained that the device was hard to use, causing discomfort with their speech. They said “life in general was less satisfying”. And it’s not hard to imagine what said participants did as soon as the magnets were removed.

I’m not one for gambling, but I’d put money on the fact that after two weeks on a liquid diet and effectively silenced by a scold’s bridle, those unlucky enough to have been selected for the trial called their best mates and invited them out for a slap-up meal that could be sliced, tasted, chewed, and enjoyed. The weight will be regained, the cycle will continue.

Of course some people need to make drastic changes to improve their health, but those who claim to want to help those people must recognise it takes more than willpower and restriction to lose weight. A medieval torture device and a diet of puréed carrots simply isn’t the answer.

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