Weight management apps cause concern

In a world where diets and weight loss programs are easily accessible online or through apps, healthcare professionals are worried about these solutions that tackle a problem of great complexity, learned Grocery .

Last August, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) launched Kurbo, a weight management app for children aged 8 to 17, which has since been heavily criticized by many doctors and nutritionists.

It is a disaster to have allowed the marketing of this application , says Julie St-Pierre, pediatrician at Clinique 180.

The latter devotes her career to fighting childhood obesity. She is a member of international committees working to find sustainable solutions to counter this epidemic.

We will maintain the myth of the easy and miracle solution.

Dr. Julie St-Pierre

Kurbo: red, yellow or green foods

Kurbo classifies foods into three categories. Red: to avoid; yellow: to consume moderately; green: no restrictions.

This method raises questions.

“It seems that food is classified according […] to the calorie intake and not according to the nutritional value of the food,” explains Paule Bernier, president of the Professional Order of Dietitians.

For example, she explains, peanut butter is found in the reds while the protein content is high. It’s not a bad food, it’s just a question of balance. And this application does not allow any nuance

Moreover, the experts consulted argue that any weight management approach should be previously evaluated by a health professional.

To put in the minds of children that they must lose weight without having had an evaluation by a professional who actually validates this need is in itself a danger , adds Paule Bernier.

Initiatives that could even have negative consequences on the health of young people, according to our experts.

This is very worrying because a low-calorie diet or an application that promotes a low-calorie diet has very serious effects on the growth of young people. We know that this young man will double the weight he lost while he was under the regime , says Dr. St-Pierre.

Kurbo’s answer

In response to the criticisms raised by our experts, WW replied:

Kurbo is not a diet, but a weight management program that focuses on lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and physical activity. […] Behavioral weight management programs do not cause eating disorders.

Gary Foster, Ph.D., Chief Science Advisor, WW

In addition, WW claims that the Kurbo app is not intended for the Canadian market.

Yet, during our investigation, it was easy for us to download the application.

Our credit card has even been charged $69 US to access a remote support service.

I think an application is not like going to the doctor in a clinic, where you can have a really adapted follow-up.

Marylou Maisonneuve, participant in the Clinique 180 program

A multidisciplinary approach to counter the obesity epidemic

To counteract obesity among young people, the approach by multidisciplinary groups of doctors, nutritionists, kinesiologists, psychoeducators or psychologists is a promising avenue.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) recommend 25 hours of personalized interventions per year to families to combat this scourge.

At Clinique 180 and Center Circuit, we work according to this approach.

“We will work little by little on different objectives over the two years. Normally, after two years, a lot of information has been transmitted, a lot of skills to the family so that they can continue to maintain healthy habits,” explains France Biron, clinical coordinator of the Circuit Center.

Lack of funding

While waiting lists for these types of centers are at an all-time high, government funding remains lacking. Clinics survive thanks to donations.

It is over 400 requests received over a six-month period, when in previous years we received about 200 requests a year. So we have more than doubled the number of requests in the last six months. And we can see down 300 people a year , says France Biron.

Recently, more than 200 pediatricians in Quebec signed a letter to Prime Minister François Legault asking the government to commit to fighting what they see as a public health epidemic .

According the CDC, over 18-million children and adolescent are obese.

Of this number, half will develop a form of obesity.

There is an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, all of which have obesity as their common denominator.

Dr. Julie St-Pierre

In 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized obesity as a disease. Since then, voices have been raised for Canada and Quebec to do the same.

“I think it takes patients, families who are suffering and who are demanding health care, who require the disease to be recognized, who demand that current governments stop ostriching and head out of the sand and recognize the disease,” concludes Julie St-Pierre.

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