The number of people on diets in the U.S. alone is estimated to be 108 million. At any given time, that means nearly one in three people is trying to lose weight.
But despite valiant efforts with everything from juice cleanses, the keto diet, kettlebells and CrossFit, a lot of people keeps coming back to a familiar and frustrating state – the same one they were at before they tried to lose weight.
While many blame their body for this annoying resistance to fat reduction, the answer may lie elsewhere: in the brain.
As Modius Health’s CEO and co-founder Jason McKeown says, “Across the globe people are struggling to maintain a lean and healthy body. This is putting enormous pressure not just on individuals, but entire heathcare systems. Neuroscience has proven that unhealthy weight gain is an issue which is controlled by the brain.”
That last part is key – that the secret to weight gain (and loss) lies in neuroscience. It’s also what’s behind Modius’s new fat-reduction wearable, which appears to help people shed fat effortlessly (meaning without changes in diet or exercise). Sound too good to be true? Here’s how it works:
Your brain’s hypothalamus is responsible for, among other things, a “set point” when it comes to body fat percentage. It’s kind of like a thermostat: if your body fat is around 23 percent, your hypothalamus will always want you to return to that point, no matter how much you change your diet or exercise.
So while yes, of course you can lose weight if you reduce your caloric intake enough, it’s going to be very hard to keep it off. Your body will always want to return to homeostasis (your fat percentage set point).
This was a useful evolutionary device at one point. When humans were still struggling to survive, we needed to conserve every calorie we could consume. Now, however, as a species we struggle far more with problems associated with hanging onto weight – hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, just to name a few.
Taking advantage of a bodily hack
The new fat-loss wearable takes advantage of a weird hack associated with your vestibular nerve (inner ear) to impact your hypothalamus. Scientists sort of stumbled onto the link between vestibular stimulation and fat reduction accidentally–in addition to a number of other studies, they noticed that the rats NASA was using to test exposure to zero gravity (which generates a lot of vestibular stimulation) all got really lean.
A further review of the literature supported this link between vestibular stimulation, the hypothalamus, and getting lean, so researchers put together a clinical trial to test out a vestibular stimulation device on people.
The results? Vestibular stimulation does seem to successfully “trick” your hypothalamus into lowering your fat percentage set point, which leads to a dramatic decrease in percentage body fat.
Again, it’s not totally known why this works, but it may have to do with your brain interpreting vestibular stimulation as you being in a hyperactive state. If your hypothalamus thinks you’re being extremely active (like sprinting after antelope on the Serengetti), it may decide you to be more lean in order to survive (instead of more fat-padded), and thus lower the thermostat.