If you routinely outpace your satiety signals by eating really, really fast, then the makers of this device are hoping that it may be just what the doctor (or dentist) ordered. Called, SMART for “sensor monitored alimentary restriction therapy,” this plastic palate insert reduces your oral capacity so you have to take smaller bites and chew your food more thoroughly.
You pop it into your mouth, over the upper palate to be exact, just like you used to do with your post-braces retainer (remember that annoying device?). Unlike the retainers of the good old days, this device has a built-in sensor to tell on you when you don’t use it.
The inventor’s story
SMART was invented by a skinny woman with a condition called torus palatinus who noted that she was always the last one to finish a meal because large bony protrusions in her upper palate reduced her oral capacity. Because she had to eat slowly, she was able to slow intake and allow for the body’s natural satiety mechanisms (gut hormones) to do their work. She wanted to share her secret to dietary success.
But does it work?
In an uncontrolled study that appeared in the journal Obesity, 20 overweight and obese participants who self-identified as “fast eaters” were prescribed a healthy diet and the device. Only 16 people completed the study and the devices were not used for every meal (the average use was about 10 meals/week). This may have been because the device made people gag and lisp. In fact, some of the participants felt so self-conscious that “they either ate their lunch alone at work, avoided lunchroom conversations or avoided wearing it altogether.”
After 16 weeks, the mean weight loss was five kilograms with an associated reduction in waist and hip circumferences. All of the unfortunate folks in this study reported eating more slowly and being more conscious of portion size and satiation (these are very good things).
The bottom line
In a story about the device, the President of Obesity Canada, Dr. David Lau says the paper shows “proof of concept.” I am sorry, but I don’t think it shows much, if anything, because the “n” was only 16 and there was no control group. In fact, I wonder how the authors got this paper, which was paid for by the SMART manufacturer, Scientific Intake, published in such a good journal in the first place.
But I am digressing from what is an important point. Eating slowly is a simple strategy that may be an effective adjunct to a healthy weight loss diet. Personally, I prefer a “mindful eating” approach as opposed to a plastic palate gadget that makes me gag….but, as they say, different strokes for different folks, right?
Update 8/25/17: The SMART device received FDA approval in October 2016. It is now being marketed in combination with a tracking app and access to coaches.
Here are some additional resources on the impact of mindful eating on weight loss: