Modius - Can it help with weight loss?

The snapshot

Report of the Evidence, An Independent Academic Viewpoint

By Dr David Broome

Modius - Can it help with weight loss?

      The full picture

      MODIUS is a device that you wear like a set of headphones which uses neurotechnology to make dieting easier. The area in the brain that regulates appetite is known as the hypothalamus. Hormones secreted in the gut such as ghrelin, which is orexigenic (appetite stimulating) leads to a sensation we feel as hunger to encourage food intake. PYY has the opposite effect and is anorexigenic (appetite suppressing) which leads to a sensation we feel as fullness to encourage the cessation of eating and reducing food intake.

      MODIUS sends a safe electrical pulse into the vestibular nerve which is located just behind the ear, below the surface of the skin. The pulse stimulates the nerve to influence the hypothalamus mimicking the action of hormones so that you feel fuller faster. 

      On the products website (https://www.modiushealth.com/) it is claimed that using  MODIUS reduces food cravings and decreases appetite making you feel fuller quicker to ultimately aid with weight loss. The following is a review of the science that supports the claims which is informed by personal testing of the product and expertise in the area. My PhD examined the effects of exercise on appetite and gut peptide hormones. I have published widely in this area and am an editorial board member of the journal ‘Appetite’.

      The product

      Was developed by Dr Jason McKeown with a commercial launch date of August 2017. Having searched, to the reviewers knowledge there are no specific papers that have tested the efficacy of MODIUS as these are not presented on the website either. The scientific papers that are provided mostly involve animal models that have not necessarily received vestibular stimulation. 

      The parent company

      Neurovalens Ltd has registered a clinical trial with clinical trials.gov (identifier NCT03640286) which proposes a randomized, double blind sham controlled clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy vestibular nerve stimulation combined with lifestyle advice compared to sham control as a means of reducing body weight and fat. I assume it will use MODIUS, but It is made explicit that recruitment has not started yet.

      There are personal testimonials on the products website in which some people who have used MODIUS have lost weight. However, with the provision of exercise regimes as well as dietary advice offered with the product it is very difficult to ascertain if it is MODIUS per se or other lifestyle choices that are causing the weight loss. There is also a potential ‘placebo’ effect in that wearing MODIUS may motivate better adherence to these other positive lifestyle changes. To provide balance there are also testimonials of people claiming there was no effect, so the completion of the aforementioned clinical trial to provide data on the efficacy of MODIUS is very much needed to give me confidence of a true effect.

      Before starting

      MODIUS must be fully charged. After downloading the app to either an iOS or android device, the power button is pressed and the instructions should be followed in the app to pair the device. Alcohol wipes are provided to clean the hard bony skin behind the ears. Gel pads are provided to be attached to the dry skin behind each ear. The wipes and pads would need to be replaced at a later date for MODIUS to work effectively. The headset is placed on the head aligning the power button above the right ear after which the cables are placed onto the gel pads. Once positioned correctly, MODIUS is switched on signalled by a high pitched beep with the light flashing. The app is used to adjust and alter the stimulation level until you feel a gentle rocking sensation. 

      For first use, I made sure I was extremely hungry having fasted for 12 hours so that I was more sensitive to change. When switched on the stimulation leads to a soft tingle on the skin which was comfortable, and despite being able to hear a feint noise it is not too distracting. It is recommended that you start at a low level so I began at level 1 and worked through to 4 when I began to experience the rocking sensation. I got to level 6 after which it would have been too intense. It does make you feel a little dizzy so I would advise sitting down. Once I had become accustomed to the sensation I was able to continue working (writing this review). I did experience a suppression of hunger after a few minutes but not sufficient enough to prevent me eating after the session had completed but a reminder I was ravenous. The product website claims it can take at least 3 days of use to observe any changes.

      The app

      Has a feature whereby it will alert you if one of the pads is coming loose which is helpful as this did happen to due to my inability to place the gel pad correctly on first use. The app can be used to track weight loss which is an important feature.

      MODIUS should be worn for 1 hour at a time each day but to my knowledge there is no evidence to see whether longer durations of vestibular stimulation or multiple uses throughout the day would have any additional benefit. Also, the timing of use before or after eating would be an interesting future line of enquiry.

      Comments

      Losing weight is challenging as many people find it hard to stick to diets or increase their physical activity. This is confounded by other factors including increased stress, poor sleep, medication influencing metabolism and possibly disability. The body defends against weight loss due to changes in hormones as well as a decrease in resting metabolic rate. Behaviourally it is common for people to regain lost weight due to reverting back to old habits so interventions are needed to curb the global rise in overweight and obesity. MODIUS could work for some people as the various testimonials on the products website claim. It is expensive costing £350 so I suggest requesting a trial and test for yourself first.

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        Sheffield Hallam University

        Review completed and approved for use by Sheffield Hallam University

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