‘Torture device’: Scientists develop weight loss tool that locks jaw; spark outrage

Published on Jun 29, 2021 03:41 PM IST

A team of researchers has developed a magnetic device that limits the wearer to a liquid diet, but “allows free speech and doesn’t restrict breathing.”

The magnetic device that limits the wearer to a liquid diet, but “allows free speech and doesn’t restrict breathing.”(Twitter / @otago)
The magnetic device that limits the wearer to a liquid diet, but “allows free speech and doesn’t restrict breathing.”(Twitter / @otago)
By | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Scientists have developed a “world-first” weight loss device with locking bolts that restricts a person’s jaw from opening wide enough to intake solids. A team of researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and the UK collaborated to develop the magnetic device that limits the wearer to a liquid diet, but “allows free speech and doesn’t restrict breathing.”

“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 kick-starts the process,” Paul Brunton, the lead researcher and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Otago Health Sciences, said in a statement.

Trial participants lost an average of 6.36 kilograms within two weeks and were motivated to continue with their weight loss journey, the University said. The magnetic device is fitted by a dentist, can be released by the user in the case of an emergency and can be repeatedly fitted and removed.


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The announcement drew a massive backlash on social media as users termed it a “torture device” meant to force people to go on a liquid diet. “And this, kids, is why ethics needs to be taught in science. Good God, I thought medicine was past these kinds of torture devices,” replied one user.

The outrage on social media prompted the University to issue a clarification, saying the device is not intended as a quick or long-term weight-loss solution, but to assist people who need to undergo surgery and who cannot have the surgery until they have lost weight. It stated that users can have the magnets disengaged and the device removed after two or three weeks.

“They could then have a period with a less restricted diet and then go back into treatment. This would allow for a phased approach to weight loss supported by advice from a dietician,” the University of Otago tweeted.

However, the University, in its earlier statement, had said that the device has been developed to “help fight the global obesity epidemic,” adding that the tool could be “particularly helpful” for those having to lose weight before they can undergo surgery.

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