Losing weight without having to exercise or diet - that's the dream. The proverbial magic bullet.
Startup Neurovalens says it's realized that very dream with its Modius headband, which is currently raising big bucks over on Indiegogo. The wearable sends a signal to the brain to burn fat and help you get a leaner body; it essentially tricks your body into losing weight. But is it all too good to be true? Can we really fight the fat with neuroscience?
Read this: How to lose weight with wearable tech
CEO Jason McKeown says the research has been hiding in plain sight for some time now. In a paper published in 2002, scientists carried out research on mice that showed a correlation between weight loss and stimulation of the vestibular nerve.
"All the mice got really lean, they got down to 5% body fat," says McKeown, "and the researchers commented this was a hormonal change - but they didn't realise it was the direct result of stimulating the vestibular system".
McKeown says this phenomenon has been recognised, and Neurovalens, founded at the University of California San Diego's Center for Brain & Cognition, set out to replicate it in the first human studies. In tests over a 16-week period, with subjects receiving three hours of stimulation a week, they found there was an average of 8% reduction in body fat.
In just one hour, says McKeown, the subjects showed a reduction in the leptin hormone, insulin and appetite. In the trials, there was no change to diet or exercise in any of the subjects. All that's happening, according to McKeown, is that stimulation is altering the body's metabolism and reducing its fat storage.
Neurovalens recommends people use the headband for 45 minutes a day, either every day or every other day. It also has a safety mechanism where it shuts down after an hour to stop overuse. As for side effects, McKeown says users may feel more relaxed (so don't use it while driving), but otherwise you'll just feel a gentle impulse that sounds similar to the one produced by the Thync Relax Pro.
However, he also acknowledges that this isn't a one-size-fits-all technology. "If you have something binary like a broken bone, it heals or it doesn't. We're absolutely confident that it works, we're absolutely confident that it's safe, but we're excited to see the range of effects people." Neurovalens sees the crowdfunding route as the next phase of testing. Do effects differ between gender, for example? Could it even help with sleep? Neurovalens is even giving cash incentives for users to engage with feedback on their experience with Modius.
The greatest question of our times. Neurovalens intends to get Modius on the market in the new year with a retail price of $499, while the Indiegogo units cost $349. "From a financial point of view the company is in a very good position," says McKeown.
Neurovalens just completed a seed round of 4.1m, with investment from primarily UK-based companies such as TechstartNI and British Business Bank.
So there's reason to be confident in the company's stability. As for whether Modius will work for you? That much we can't say for certain. We've just received a unit and will be testing it over the coming weeks, but as mentioned, it's possible it will produce different responses in different people, and while not having to exercise sounds great, McKeown doesn't advise users becomes couch potatoes. "As a company we absolutely promote health, it's not just some quick fix".
The proof will be in the (hopefully burned off) pudding - we'll be sure to let you know.