We won’t fix the obesity epidemic by locking people’s jaws shut

Want to hear a weight-loss idea so ingenious it’s guaranteed to make your jaw drop by exactly 2mm? Introducing the DentalSlim Diet Control: a terrifying contraption that uses magnets cemented to your teeth to stop you opening your mouth by more than a couple of millimetres. That makes eating pretty difficult, causing you to shed weight along with your dignity. The device was developed by a team of researchers from the UK and New Zealand to “to help fight the global obesity epidemic” and is designed to be fitted by dentists. Which reaffirms all my worst suspicions about dentists.

It will not surprise you to hear that news of the oral chastity belt did not go down well with the angry hordes on Twitter: there was an immediate backlash, with people online comparing it to a “medieval torture device”. Perhaps more importantly, egter, the device doesn’t seem to have thrilled the few people who have actually used it. For reasons that are not immediately clear, the device was trialled exclusively on women. Only six participants completed the study and while they lost weight and reported feeling embarrassed by their mouth-magnets only “occasionally”, they noted that “life in general was less satisfying”. The participants were all armed with an emergency tool they could use to unlock their mouths should the need arise. No one reported using it, but one person did admit to cheating the system by chugging melted chocolate.

The DentalSlim Diet Control (a mouthful of a name) has been touted as a “world first” by its inventors. But there is nothing new about jaw-wiring: as the researchers themselves note, it was popular in the 1980s. Nor is there anything new about people treating the obesity epidemic as if it is a simple matter of individual willpower rather than complex systemic change. In the rich world, obesity is an economic issue: the less money you have, the less access to healthy food you often have. And that’s not a problem you can solve by locking people’s jaws shut.

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