A weight loss device which uses magnets to stop people from opening their mouths enough to eat solids has been developed by Dunedin researchers.
University of Otago and United Kingdom researchers developed the world-first weight-loss device, which uses magnets to lock the mouth almost shut, to help fight the global obesity epidemic.
DentalSlim Diet Control is an intra-oral device fitted by a dental professional to the upper and lower back teeth. It used magnetic devices with unique custom-manufactured locking bolts.
It allowed the wearer to open their mouths only about 2mm, restricting them to a liquid diet, but it allowed free speech and doesn't restrict breathing.
Participants in a Dunedin-based trial lost an average of 6.36kg in two weeks and were motivated to continue with their weight loss journey.
Lead researcher, Otago University Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Prof Paul Brunton said the device would be an effective, safe, and affordable tool for people battling obesity.
It would fitted by a dentist, and could be released by the user in case of an emergency and could be repeatedly fitted 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 kick-starts the process.
"It is a non-invasive, reversible, economical and attractive alternative to surgical procedures.
"The fact is, there are no adverse consequences with this device," Prof Brunton said.
Recent studies revealed 1.9 billion adults worldwide were overweight and 650 million were obese.
Being overweight or obese resulted in about 2.8 million deaths a year. It was estimated about 57 per cent of the world's adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030.
"In addition, psychological symptoms may be present, including embarrassment, depression and loss of self-esteem and obese people may suffer eating disorders together with stigmatisation and discrimination."
The tool could be particularly helpful for those having to lose weight before they can undergo surgery, and for diabetes patients for whom weight loss could initiate remission.
While bariatric surgery played a major role in the management of morbid obesity, it could not be relied upon to manage what was a "global epidemic".
It cost about $24,000 and patients "live with the consequences of that for life, which can be quite unpleasant".
The practice of surgically wiring people's jaws shut became popular in the 1980s, but it came with risks; vomiting brought with it the risk of choking and after 9 to 12 months the patients developed gum disease. In some cases, there were continuing issues with restriction of jaw movement and some developed acute psychiatric conditions.
"Alternative strategies are required which may obviate surgery, or which reduce weight prior to surgery and so make it easier and safer.
"The beauty of it is that once patients are fitted with the device, after two or three weeks they can have the magnets disengaged. 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 allowing long term weight loss goals to be realised."
All the patients given the device described it as tolerable, the design has since been improved, making it smaller to improve functional comfort and aesthetics.
"Overall, people felt better about themselves, they had more confidence and they were committed to their weight loss journey.
"It's hard yards. Patients who really want to do this have to be committed. But for those people who are really struggling - and let's face it, that's millions of people across the world - this is a way of getting them back into normal lifestyle diet habits by really pump priming the process.
"This could actually help a lot of people."
The research team consisted of Prof Brunton, Dr Jithendra Ratnayake, Dr Peter Mei and Dr Arthi Veerasamy, all of Otago University, Dr Jonathan Bodansky, of Leeds, and Dr Richard Hall, of RMH Consultancy, Leeds. The paper was published in the British Dental Journal.