Diet culture has led to some dangerous ways to supposedly help people to lose weight, and this one is one of more extreme examples of that: researchers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom say they are fighting the “obesity epidemic” by locking people’s jaws shut.
They’ve come up with a magnetic contraption that is installed in the mouth; the goal of the device is to restrict its wearers to a liquid-only diet. In case the user has a panic attack or chokes, rest easy because there is an emergency key to unlock it.
Paul Brunton, lead researcher of New Zealand’s University of Otago’s study said in a news release Monday (June 28) that the device helps “kick-start” the dieting process.
“It is a non-invasive, reversible, economical and attractive alternative to surgical procedures,” Brunton said. “The fact is, there are no adverse consequences with this device.”
Per the Washington Post, nutrition and eating disorder experts disagree with these claims. Deanne Jade, founder and principal of the U.K.’s National Centre for Eating Disorders, said the device is like “a return to the Dark Ages.”
“This is very, very dangerous,” Jade said. “Any extreme weight loss device — any of these strategies run the risk of harm unless you’re working with someone who is fully trained to deal with all these issues that can arise from it.”
Tom Quinn, director of external affairs for eating disorder charity Beat, said in a statement that the “lockjaw” device is “incredibly concerning.”
“It also completely oversimplifies the issue of obesity, reduces the process of weight loss to a question of compliance and willpower and ignores the many complex factors involved, which may include eating disorders,” Quinn said.
Chelsea Kronengold, associate director of communications for the National Eating Disorders Association, called the apparatus, which is cemented to wearers’ molars, “barbaric.”
“What did these people gain from this?” asked Joan Salge Blake, a nutrition professor at Boston University. Salge Blake said her gut reaction was that this was a fat-shaming tactic.
The study compared the device to the practice of jaw-wiring, which was popular in the ’80s but fell out of favor as patients developed gum disease and psychiatric conditions. The researchers said this new implement avoided several of jaw-wiring’s pitfalls.
Participants reported occasional discomfort and feeling that life in general was less satisfying during the study. “This is literally saying that people would rather live a less satisfying life in a smaller body than have a full and satisfying life in a larger or fat body,” Kronengold said. “And that is weight stigma in a summary.”
Folks on Twitter were also against the use of the device, with many calling it a “torture device:”
"Nevertheless, all the participants got accustomed to the device during the treatment period and were able to work effectively in their usual employment."— Dr. Sara Leiste (@SaraFeistiness) June 28, 2021
Well, at least the torture device didn't stop them from contributing to capitalism. I mean, that would be bad.
And this, kids, is why ethics needs to be taught in science.— Justin Boot ∞ (@Polymathically) June 28, 2021
Good God, I thought medicine was past these kinds of torture devices.
You don’t need this torture device to go on a liquid diet. I did slimfast in the 90s and lost a tonne of weight quickly. I also started vomiting, taking laxatives and exercising obsessively. I put all the weight back on when I gave that up, but the damage it did is still with me.— Platinum Pixie (@platinumpixienz) June 28, 2021
a holistic solution to obesity that focuses on its socio-economic roots and promotes access (time, cost, etc) to healthy, sustainable diets? no, let's bolt fatties' mouths shut and put them on a forced juice cleanse!— Katjo Buissink ✏️ (@proletarikat) June 28, 2021
A world-first and world-last, I sincerely hope. This is a torture device and you should be embarrassed to be promoting it, let alone to be associated with it.— Giovanni Tiso (@gtiso) June 28, 2021
Maybe instead of developing torture devices, you could do some research into how the medical profession consistently fails people based on the out of date and inappropriate bmi scale.— S R Jones (@AegisImmemorial) June 28, 2021
Or would that be actual work that involves ethics and challenges how your researchers think?
I too got my medical license in Silent Hill— Groverhaus of 1000 Corpses (@dubsteppenwolf) June 28, 2021
To the participant who ‘cheated’ - you did not cheat and you are not what these authors have described you as. Doing optifast is hard enough (trust me, I know) - I can’t imagine how challenging it would be with a dental vice grip. You are not defined by this.— Dr Samantha Keene (she/her) (@Miss_Keene) June 28, 2021
Every single person involved with this needs to face consequences, recieve remedial ethics education, and *never work in research again*.— local witch frand (@kingdomofwench) June 28, 2021
*checks*— Tinker Tailor Soldier Wooloo (@MockWooloo) June 28, 2021
Oh. This is a real university, not a parody page.
Magnets which clamp people's mouths shut and need a custom tool to unlock? Looking forward to this in the next season of The Handmaid's Tale.— David Ritchie (@dritchie) June 28, 2021