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obesity

WW, formerly known as WeightWatchers, launched a diet and nutrition app marketed at children and adolescents this week and have faced immense backlash since.

Kurbo by WW is a free programme that claims to help eight-year-olds to 17-year-olds "build healthy habits", and lose weight through personalised coaching and food tracking.

The app's "traffic light" diet approach categorises foods as red, yellow and green (red being the most process, sugar-filled, yellow being lean protein and pasta and green being fruit and veg).

Kurbo by WW was developed at Stanford University, and WW have defended their programme by stating the app is backed by safe scientific studies. 

CEO of WW, Mindy Grossman, said; "To change the health trajectory of the world, we have a tremendous opportunity, but also a responsibility, to help kids, teens and families adopt healthy habits."

Many critics of the app insist that encouraging kids and teenagers to diet can perpetuate an unhealthy and dangerous mindset.

Fatphobic cultural messaging around dieting has led to a massive issue surrounding eating disorders and mental health among youth.

In an article published in Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics in 2015, researchers found that because adolescence is such an important time for body image development, 12-to-18-year-olds with a negative perception of their body or weight are more likely to develop eating disorders or dysfunctional exercise habits.

Of course, obesity can be linked to numerous health concerns but disordered eating and mental health conditions among adolescent is reportedly more likely to pose a dangerous risk than paediatric obesity.

35-to-37 percent of adolescent girls in the US alone report using unhealthy weight loss measures, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. These methods include fasting, smoking, taking laxatives and 'skinny teas', skipping meals and even vomiting.

One-in-three adolescents in the UK alone reported experiencing mental health issues, according to a troubling survey by the charity Action for Children. 

More than 12 percent of adolescents in the US are affected by depression every year. 

Many people on social media were furious about the Kurbo by WW app. Jameela Jamil, an activist and actress who runs the iWeigh campaign for body positivity, tweeted her disgust at the news.

“Are we kidding? Breeding obsession with weight and calories and food at the age of…8?" she wrote. "I was 11 when my obsession started, due to being put on a diet for being the heaviest girl in the class. I became afraid of food. It ruined my teens and twenties.”

Petitions have already been created against the app, with the hashtag #LoveNotDiets trending to urge parents to use love rather than diets to help their nutritional habits.

Childhood obesity is still an incredibly serious public health challenge of the 21st century, and the app attempts to reduce a child's sugar intake. There is nothing wrong with promoting healthy foods and exercising for physical and mental health benefits. 

However, many parents feel that instilling a diet-centered mindset among young people who are already vulnerable could be a dangerous mistake. Targeting the mental health crisis could be a more productive way forward.

Feature image: Instagram/@coachdavidflowers

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Veganism may seem like a bit of a fad, enjoyed by tanned travel Instagrammers who never seem to have a problem picking a raw coconut over a slice of pepperoni pizza.

There has been quite a lot of debate over the lifestyle choice, with some feeling it truly is the best way to nourish your body, and others feeling that cutting out so many aspects of the food pyramid isn't right. 

Now, a new study has shown that people who eat a plant-based diet end up slimmer than those who prefer a diet heavy in meat, eggs, dairy and animal fats.

Those who consume lots of fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses, olive oil and who enjoy potatoes (in all their glorious forms) have a significantly lower chance of becoming obese in the long run, which kind of proves what we've all known for eternity, that fruits and veggies are some of the healthiest foods out there. 

The study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity, examined the nutritional data of 16,181 people who were not obese at the start of the research.

The subjects were tested on their diets, and those with diets where animal by-products were consumed were more likely to become obese than those who maintained the plant-based diet over 10 years. 

'Our study suggests that plant-based diets are associated with substantially lower risk of developing obesity,' said Professor Maira Bes-Rastrollo, from the University of Navarra in Spain, who presented the study.

'This supports current recommendations to shift to diets rich in plant foods, with lower intake of animal foods.'

However, the chairman of the National Obesity Forum Tam Fry did not condone removing all forms of animal by-products from the diet.

'Clearly you shouldn't cut out unprocessed food such as fresh meat, diary or fish entirely but, as the research student suggests, keep them in check.'

'Our ancestors found cabbage and cauliflower much easier to catch than cows, and thrived on the diet.'

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For the discerning cheese fiend, one slice is just never enough. 

Yes, you know you have a problem when even an entire board laden down heavy with a half a dozen varieties can be deliciously devoured in less than an hour. 

However, rather than bemoaning a lack of self control, it seems that genetics have a LOT to answer for when it comes to cheese cravings. Indeed, the food can be like a hard drug to some people.

In short, it's not you it's science.

Fancy-pants researchers at the University Of Cambridge have found that around one in 1,000 people have a troublesome gene called MC4R. This means they have a predisposition for high-fat foods (read: donuts, pizza, butter and CHEESE!), but less of a preference for high-sugar foods. 

The scientists laid-out a chicken korma buffet followed by an Eton Mess dessert for 54 volunteers of various size. 

And while there was no real difference in the amount eaten between the individuals, the 14 people with MC4R unknowingly ate a significantly higher proportion of the high-fat korma, although they liked the high-sugar option less than their counterparts.

Professor Sadaf Farooqi, neuroscientist and co-author of the study, said in response: “People couldn’t tell the food apart and that was the key thing. They [participants with the MC4R defect] still ate a lot more of the high fat and a lot less of the high sugar which suggests that the brain has ways of picking up levels of nutrients.”

Past experiments with mice have found similar links between the MC4R gene defect and fatty food preference but the Cambridge research is the first human study of its kind.

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We love rice! After all, it's cheap, it's delicious and it goes with LOADS of different dips, sauces and dishes.

However, in particular with the white variety, sadly a lot of rice isn't really healthy. That's because even a modest serving has around 200 calories in it, and most of those calories come in the form of starch.

In our bodies, starch converts to sugar, and excess sugar converts to… yup, you guessed it, FAT! 

Still, one undergraduate student at the College Of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka has now come up with simple way to reduce the number of calories in rice by up to 50 percent – AND the technique actually adds in further health benefits too.

So what does it involve? 

"What we did is cook the rice as you normally do, but when the water is boiling, before adding the raw rice, we added coconut oil – about 3 percent of the weight of the rice you're going to cook," said Sudhair James, who presented his research at the National Meeting & Exposition Of The American Chemical Society earlier this week.

"After it was ready, we let it cool in the refrigerator for about 12 hours. That's it."

So how does it work? Well, not all starches are created equal, with digestible starches generally being worse for you than resistant starches. The latter take longer for your body to process and therefore aren't converted into glucose or glycogen in the same way as their digestible counterparts.

This, in short, means fewer calories. Hurrah!

And it is possible to change the makeup of a starch – which is what the coconut oil does to rice during the cooking process. 

"The oil interacts with the starch in rice and changes its architecture," said Mr James. "Chilling the rice then helps foster the conversion of starches. The result is a healthier serving, even when you heat it back up."

The calorie reduction in the dishes he looked at ranged from 10 percent to 50 percent.

And people should be able to replicate the process at home, although Mr James warns the results might vary depending on the type of rice used. 

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New research has shown that while people who are overweight are more likely to get heart disease, the risk of them actually dying from it, is lower than people who are underweight.

Dr Abhishek Sharma, of the State University of New York, carried out the research where he analysed 36 previous studies involving thousands of patients with coronary artery disease. He found that the death rate in those with a high BMI (over 30) were up to 27% lower, than those with a normal BMI.

Dr Sharma said: “At this stage, we can only speculate on the reasons for this paradox.

“One explanation may be that overweight patients are more likely to be prescribed cardio-protective medications such as beta blockers and statins and in higher doses than the normal weight population.”

He added: “Obese and overweight patients have been found to have large coronary vessel damage, which might contribute to more favourable outcomes [than those who have smaller damaged vessels].”

However, before you ring the Chinese and order everything on the menu, Dr. Sharma warned: “The findings in these studies should not be considered as an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the anti-obesity campaign in the best interest of public health.”

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Piling on the pounds but can’t for the life of you, figure out why? Well, it may actually be the fact that your bedroom curtains are not heavy enough. Yes, you did read that right!

Well, that’s according to the latest study released.

More than 113,000 women took part in the Breakthrough Generations Study, which followed British women for a period of 40 years to find the root cause of breast cancer. The study found that obesity is one of the key causes. In their findings, they uncovered that the more light those studied were exposed to while sleeping, the higher their waist size was.

Professor Anthony Swerdlow, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, offers an explanation for this: “Metabolism is affected by cyclical rhythms within the body that relate to sleeping, waking and light exposure.”

However, no need to walk around in complete darkness just yet, as Dr Matthew Lam from Breakthrough Breast Cancer says: “It’s too early to suggest that sleeping in the dark will help prevent obesity, a known risk factor for breast cancer, but the association is certainly interesting.”

Looks like it is back to the drawing board for us, so.

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Campaigners have called for the food industry to be given stricter rules – as global obesity is growing at a super fast rate.

The campaigners say that obesity actually poses a greater global risk than cigarettes.

The two organisations – Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation – say governments around the world should impose compulsory rules for the food industry.

These could include pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity, similar to those on cigarette packets.

They say new rules could include reducing the levels of salt, saturated fat and sugar in food, improving food served in hospitals and schools, imposing stricter advertising controls, and educating the public about healthy eating.

Governments could review food prices, introduce taxes, change licensing controls and start new research to make this happen, the groups argue.

Advertising to young people during TV programmes such as the X-Factor, must also be restricted, they say.

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Everyone worries about losing weight and avoiding obesity, but, according to new research, what we should be worried about is whether or not we feel lonely.

This might come as a bit of a shock, but findings showed that feeling lonely later in life can do more damage to our health than obesity ever could.

The reasons for this is because feeling unloved and cut off from loved ones can raise a person’s blood pressure and cause them to have a heart attack or stroke. It can also weaken the immune system and cause someone to be depressed.

So before you decide to sulk and dwell on your pain, remember that you aren’t doing yourself or your health any favors.

liz_taylor

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A new study found that people who live in colder climates are at a higher risk of becoming obese and it’s not because they eat their weight to survive the cold weather.

Scientists believe that the reason for this is that the bacteria responsible for increasing someone’s chances of becoming obese live in the lowest temperatures.

In the study of over 1,000 people from 23 countries, it was found that those who live further from the equator have more of the bad bugs and less of the fat-busting ones – how unfortunate!

Lead author of the study said:  “We found a trend that humans living in colder regions tend to have more obese-associated gut microbial community compared to warmer regions.”

This means that the body adapts to colder climates by increasing body fat, so is anyone up for an extended trip to Aussie?

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At some stage or another it seems as if everything is bad for us but now it would seem doctors and health experts around the world finally agree on one thing – white refined sugar is killing us.

With a massive rise in obesity and diabetes worldwide and in Ireland, is our massive consumption of sugar the root of these problems?

Sugar is in almost everything that we eat including chocolate, sweets, all fizzy and juice drinks, cereals, even beans and ketchup have high levels of sugar!

While we have learnt to check the calories and grams of fat on the products that we eat, are we ignoring the biggest threat of all to our health – the sugar content?

We can tackle our intake of sugar by checking the foods we eat and trying to eat less processed food and eating more fruit and vegetables. Swap white, refined sugar for raw honey or agave syrup.

Try to avoid sweeteners as they are laden down with chemicals – yuck.

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