|(Natural News) As the 2020 presidential election gets closer and closer, the NeverTrump crowd of RINO journalists are increasingly sounding as loony – and dangerous – as their colleagues on the Left. In recent days during an interview on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” program, Washington Post ‘Republican’ columnist Jennifer Rubin used language to call for the…|
|(Natural News) A judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Penn State University (PSU) climatologist Michael Mann, creator of the infamous “hockey stick” graph commonly used by climate apologists to back the global warming hoax. For criticizing this graph, which has repeatedly been exposed as a total fraud, Dr. Tim Ball became one of…|
|(Natural News) The mainstream media is reporting that Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) is supposedly back under the knife for a “malignant” tumor that was recently discovered on her pancreas. According to reports, the far-left Supreme Court justice, who was mysteriously reported dead earlier this year on Fox & Friends, was given radiation treatments for three…|
Quitting smoking is likely one of the best things you can do for your health as traditional cigarettes cause damage to nearly every organ in your body. Vaping, or using e-cigarettes, is sometimes marketed as a way for adults to quit smoking, but there’s not enough evidence to demonstrate it helps.1
If you’re trying to quit smoking, the American Heart Association2 endorses using established methods. They suggest you don’t try vaping because you think it’s “cool” or “safe.” There is a perceived assurance e-cigs are safe and harmless. The vapor is often the odorless, making it difficult to detect once the device has been put away.
In a 2016 report,3 “E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults,” the U.S. Surgeon General called the products unsafe and documented an alarming increase in use by young adults. The report also showed e-cigarettes are associated with the use of other tobacco products as well as challenges with brain development affecting the health and mental health of young adults.
In July 2018 the Verge reported4 on the difference between Juul salts using freebase nicotine and other e-cigarettes. The combination of freebase nicotine with benzoic acid creates a chemical reaction designed to be as easy to inhale as cigarettes. A company spokesperson, Victoria Davis, called fighting underage vaping a “top priority.” She said:5
“Juul is intended for adult smokers only who want to switch from combustible cigarettes. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try Juul.”
Juul spends thousands in schools and camps
Davis’ commentary in 2018 does not line up with information presented to the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which viewed documents as part of an investigation into the role the company played in the vaping epidemic.6
Documents show “Juul spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund” programs, which an employee characterized as7 “our new understanding of how much our efforts seem to duplicate those of big tobacco.” In the same email thread, another employee expressed concerns about pulling out of the health fair as they would certainly lose the school as part of the pilot program.8
In a memo from the Subcommittee,9 an examination of the role Juul has played in teenage nicotine addiction was outlined. The memo stated Juul had deployed “a sophisticated program to enter schools” and direct its message at teenage children; it also targeted teenagers in summer camps and public out of school programs.
Internally,10 Juul maintained a division aimed at recruiting schools to present a program to students. In testimony about one presentation, a representative from Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes said no parents or teachers were allowed in the room and the message from the company was the product was safe. During the presentation, the presenter did a demonstration of how to use the product.
The program paid the school system $10,000 to access the students in class, in summer school or at a Saturday school program.11 Additionally, they targeted teenagers by purchasing access to teens in a public out of school program,12 in one instance paying the Richmond, California, Police Activities League $89,000 to offer the Juul program.
At another time, the company paid $134,000 for access to children attending a five-week summer camp, recruiting those in grades 3 through 12 and providing them with a “holistic health education program.”13
Juul also engaged social media influencers
Over the past decade, there has been a shift from celebrities to social media influencers behind the drive to purchase new beauty products, cars and clothing and to get involved in nonprofit organizations. Whereas before spokespeople have been recognizable celebrities, marketing companies now understand the power that social media influencers wield on personal brand recognition.14
Audiences appear to be more receptive to social media influencers who often are the first to try products and services.15 In one survey 70% of brand marketing agencies said they either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” their 2018 budgets aimed at social media influencers would increase; 89% thought this form of marketing could impact how people felt about their product.16
Juul was no exception. They put into place a sophisticated program used to promote their product online to young people.17 Documents obtained by the subcommittee show Juul hired the Grit Creative Group to find 280 influencers in the Los Angeles and New York area18 “to seed Juul product to over the course of three months.”
In a second contract with the same company, Juul sought to secure social media influencers who held a following of at least 30,000 to attend launch events and engage their efforts to establish a network to leverage their influence for the company. Just four months later, the company’s marketing update stated:19
“The Container Tour will get JUUL into the hands of over 12,500 influencers, subsequently introducing JUUL to over 1.5 million people.”
The subcommittee was given further evidence of the program designed by Juul with planning documentation, in an email showing an employee held the title “Influencer Manager” and another email indicating there may be an entire department devoted to addressing social media influencers within Juul.20
Company pushes addictive nicotine but tells teens it’s safe
The subcommittee met in late July 2019,21 hearing testimony from research experts, parents and Juul Labs. In addition, the subcommittee heard testimony from two teenagers who told Congress a Juul representative had repeatedly told their ninth-grade classroom the e-cigarette was totally safe and then went on to show the students the device. All the students were underage.22
One of the teens, 17-year-old Caleb Mintz, told Congress the representative was there as part of a mental health seminar during which teachers were not present. At just 17, Mintz cut to the chase on Juul’s marketing tactics when he said:23
“I believe the presenter was sending mixed messages by saying Juul was ‘totally safe’ and following up every totally safe statement with ‘but we don’t want you as customers.’ I believe that the presenter was playing on the rebellious side of teens, where when teens are told not to do something, they are more likely to do it.”
Following Mintz’s testimony, his 16-year-old friend Philip Fuhrman testified. CNN reported Fuhrman told Congress the Juul representative told him the24
“FDA was about to come out and say that Juul was 99% safer than cigarettes, and he said that that would happen very soon, and that it was in FDA approval while the talk was going on.”
In June 2018, Juul Labs was valued at $15 billion.25 While selling tobacco and nicotine to those addicted has been a good business model, Juul innovated the e-cigarette to a product delivering more nicotine than a cigarette and with a sensation similar to smoking. This is all thanks to nicotine salts, a chemical base used to deliver nicotine.26
Each puff from a Juul delivers more nicotine than other e-cigarettes while reducing throat discomfort at higher concentrations. And, because nicotine salts work well in smaller devices, there’s no need to opt for a larger, bulkier e-cigarette product. Using new technology, Juul salts in one cartridge delivers roughly the amount of nicotine as found in a pack of cigarettes.27
The vaping community acknowledges nicotine salts are potentially more addictive since they lead to higher blood levels of nicotine over a short amount of time.28 Juul sponsored a study demonstrating their29 “tobacco-flavored nicotine salt-based ENDS were well tolerated and provided similar nicotine exposure and perceptual satisfaction compared to tobacco-flavored combusted cigarettes.”
Reactions in vape juice form airway irritating compounds
The long-term effects of heating e-cigarette juice have not been determined, but researchers have now found these liquids are reacting on the shelf and forming chemicals called acetyls. In a study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research,30 data show the liquids may form new chemicals as they are sitting on the shelf with unexpected toxicological effects.
The researchers recommended a rigorous process to monitor the changes in chemical composition and continue to analyze the situation in order to identify the potential health hazards to users. In other words, chemical reactions that occur once the liquid is placed in the delivery device and before heating, may increase the potential risk for those using e-cigarettes.31
The chemicals in question are from flavorings for vanilla, cherry, citrus and cinnamon. Sven-Eric Jordt, Ph.D., from Duke University, and senior author of the study commented on the results, saying:32
“These individual ingredients are combining to form more complex chemicals that are not disclosed to the user. When inhaled, these compounds will persist in the body for some time, activating irritant pathways. Over time, this mild irritation could cause an inflammatory response.”
Clusters of seizures and pulmonary infections
Doctors and hospitals have found vaping is associated with a cluster of neurological conditions.33 The FDA has received reports of 127 people who have experienced seizures or other neurological symptoms potentially related to the use of e-cigarettes. Although experts have not yet established a link, they are investigating if the nicotine in e-cigarettes are causing neurological disturbances.
NPR reports34 there have been 15 cases of severe respiratory injury in Wisconsin and 15 more are suspected. Six other cases were reported in Illinois and four in Minnesota, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with health departments to determine the cause.
The problem was first found by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin after eight healthy teenagers were hospitalized with rapid onsets of coughing, weight loss and breathing difficulties. Some were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for treatment. At this point, Dr. Thomas Haupt from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services says the only common denominator has been vaping.35
Vaping companies sue over regulations to protect kids
In 2009, the law gave the FDA power over combustible cigarettes but not e-cigarettes. In 2016 the agency expanded those regulations but have repeatedly delayed the timeline to review the products that have come to market. Recently, an e-cigarette industry group sued to delay the review arguing the deadline of May 2020 could wipe out many smaller companies.36
Unfortunately, while manufacturers and regulators argue over legalities, children and teens are being caught in the middle. Exposure at a young age to nicotine affects the reward center in the brain and increases their risk of engaging in addictive behavior as they grow into adulthood.
Additionally, addiction at a young age leaves these teens with no good treatment options for the addiction to a product designed specifically to increase the users risk of becoming addicted. In other words, children as young as 11 are becoming addicted to a product for which medical science has yet to come up with a treatment option safe at their age.
If you are addicted to cigarettes or e-cigarettes and would like to take control of your health and quit the habit, I suggest my previous article, “Quitting Smoking Starts in the Brain,” to learn a free technique that may make the process easier. Take the profit out of the tobacco industry’s pocket and put it back in yours.
Prescription painkillers — not illicit drugs — are now among the most commonly misused drugs in the U.S.1,2 As of June 2017, opioids became the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.3 President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency that year in October.4
The following graph by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows the progressive incline in overdose deaths related to narcotic pain relievers between 1999 and 2017.5
I’ve written many previous articles detailing the background of how the U.S. ended up here. Unfortunately, while the opioid crisis has received a significant amount of attention and strategies have been put into place to try to curb the epidemic of overuse and misuse, few of the responsible parties have been held to account. A small-town Southern lawyer hopes to change some of that.
Can forgotten state law bring justice to West Virginia?
An article6 in Freedom Magazine describes how Paul Thomas Farrell Jr.,7 a lawyer in Huntington, West Virginia, is using a little-known state nuisance statute (West Virginia Code Section 7-1-3-KK8) to tackle the state’s opioid problem. As explained in that article, the statute:9
“… prohibited things like junk piles in people’s yards and noisy bars staying open late. It called for the responsible parties to abate the issue, that is, to remove the problem — and pay for damages.“
Farrell is using this law to sue and hold wholesale distributors of opioids responsible, as they should have reported unusual activity, yet didn’t, which is a violation of federal law.
This unlawful conduct, Farrell says, is what has given rise to a public nuisance — the destruction of communities due to rampant opioid addiction. Farrell is also urging other areas to follow suit, using similar nuisance statutes, although it’s still unclear whether this legal tactic will actually work.
Three distributors have cornered the opioid market
As noted by Freedom Magazine, there are 800 wholesale distributors of narcotics in the U.S., with three — Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson — having cornered 85% of the market share.
The Fortune 500 rankings of each of these wholesalers has also risen “in direct parallel to a skyrocketing relationship to the sale of OxyContin,” Freedom Magazine notes, adding:10
“The distributors’ mandated task was to detect suspicious orders — any increase of 15 percent or more — and report them to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) monthly. Yet West Virginia, and eventually other areas, saw prescription increases of 100, 200 even 900 percent or more in some places, but no reports were filed.
In 2001, Farrell noted, a government oversight agency reviewed the DEA’s reports on OxyContin and determined that the DEA was also negligent. At the time, he said, DEA officers were ‘underfunded, understaffed and ill-equipped to handle the volume. We’re talking about 30 million transactions.’
Over the next few years, the DEA began going after distributors. One of the distributors’ wholesale centers got caught selling a 500 percent increase in opioids to just five pharmacies in Florida, which all became well-known ‘pill mills,’ facilitating in the process of illegal street sales of opioids further up the East Coast.
When the DEA prohibited that center from selling to those five pharmacies, the distributor simply supplied those pharmacies from a different center. ‘[Then] the DEA agent says, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re still selling?’ So, they hammered them,’ Farrell said. The DEA hit Cardinal with a $44 million fine and revoked the registration of that facility.”
Suing opioid distributors
In 2017, the DEA forced opioid manufacturers to reduce the number of pills produced by 25%. The following year, another 20% reduction was mandated.11 However, as the supply of opioids went down, addicted patients started turning to readily available (and less expensive) heroin instead. Indeed, research12 published in 2014 shows prescription opioids had by then become the primary gateway drug to heroin and other illicit drug use.
Farrell points out that while most of the blame for the narcotics problem (both prescription and illicit) has been laid on the heads of opioid manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, “nobody’s really picked up yet on the role the distributors have played,” Farrell tells Freedom Magazine.
“So, what I’m going to do is make them abate the public nuisance.” He points out that Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson are “just as big or bigger than Purdue,” and they have but one job: track and manage the volume of drugs distributed.
After devising a recovery plan with community leaders, Farrell sued 24 distributors — including the three largest ones — along with Walgreens and CVS, to force them to help repair the damage done to the community.
Part of the recovery plan for West Virginia includes educating people, especially children, about the dangers of opioids and that these pills are “just as dangerous as a crack pipe,” Farrell says.
For this, he’s requesting funding from both the board of education and the state health department to the tune of $5 million per year for 10 years for each county. For the first step in the recovery plan, the total cost for the state’s seven counties would be $350 million, but the total abatement cost is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion.
Farrell filed his lawsuit in 2017. In 2018, it was placed in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Cleveland, Ohio, along with 400 other lawsuits. “The intent is for similar cases to be heard under one jurisdiction to speed up the discovery process and pretrial rulings,” Freedom Magazine explains, adding:13
“Even under the MDL, Farrell … sees his case as slightly different. As he explained, suing a drug manufacturer frames the case as a ‘product liability case — you have to show design defect, or labeling defect,’ he said. ‘I don’t have to prove any of that. Mine is public nuisance,’ Farrell said …
‘You broke the law in West Virginia … Let’s just pick a random number … You broke the law 10,000 times. I just have to prove it once. You helped create a public nuisance that resulted in drug abuse, addiction, morbidity and mortality — now you have to abate it. How do you abate a public nuisance like that? It’ll cost you about a billion dollars. And you can write a check.'”
Cardinal Health denies accountability
A July 24, 2019, report by WOSU Radio reads:14
“An executive at Dublin-based Cardinal Health … said under questioning recently that the business has no obligation to the public when it comes to the amount of prescription opioid painkillers it ships …
[I]n a deposition earlier this year, Cardinal Health counsel Jennifer Norris was asked by a lawyer whether the company wants to ‘ensure that it does what it can to prevent the public from harm?’ She answered: ‘I don’t know that Cardinal owes a duty to the public regarding that.'”
This particular deposition was for a lawsuit filed by two Ohio counties, Cuyahoga and Summit. Several drug companies and distributors are named in this suit, the trial for which is scheduled to begin in October 2019.
July 29, 2019, The Columbus Dispatch published an article15 headlined, “Cardinal Health: A Billion Pills in 8 Years, But No Role in Ohio’s Opioid Crisis?” As noted in this and other media reports, Cardinal Health insists it had nothing to do with the creation of the opioid epidemic, maintaining the crisis, “was caused by the doctors who overprescribed the pills, the pharmacists who sold them and the regulators who failed to catch the addictive prescription drugs flooding American communities.”
However, there’s ample evidence showing Cardinal Health (as well as other distributors) ignored suspiciously large orders, shipping an alarming number of pills into areas that should have raised big red warning flags. Over the past decade, Cardinal Health has also paid nearly $100 million in fines over its mishandling of narcotics,16 making its denials ring even more hollow.
Federal drug database records show wholesale distributors shipped 76 billion opioid pills across the U.S. between 2006 and 2012,17 more than 10 billion of which came through Cardinal Health.18 Keep in mind that as of 2012, the U.S. had a population of just 312.8 million.19
Between 2006 and 2014, Cardinal Health shipped over 1 billion opioid pills into Ohio alone, and records show the number of opioids flooding into the state from Cardinal rose by 44% in those years.20
McKesson has a similar record of shipping suspiciously large orders. One particularly egregious example is that of Kermit, West Virginia. In a single year (2005 to 2006), a pharmacy in Kermit — which has a total population of 400 — took delivery of nearly 5 million doses of opioids from McKesson.21
Cardinal shifts blame onto DEA
Cardinal Health also blames the DEA, saying the company reported all sales details to the DEA as required, and did not have access to complete data about shipments to individual pharmacies from other distributors. The DEA was the only one with full access to all the data and therefore, Cardinal believes the failure to act is on the DEA.
DEA, meanwhile, maintains Cardinal Health failed to flag suspicious sales and even paid large fines for those failures. In an October 2, 2008, press release, DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said:22
“Despite DEA’s repeated attempts to educate Cardinal Health on diversion awareness and prevention, Cardinal engaged in a pattern of failing to report blatantly suspicious orders for controlled substances filled by its distribution facilities located throughout the United States.”
The press release, which publicized Cardinal’s $34 million settlement for failure to report suspicious sales, also pointed out that:
“Seven Cardinal Health distribution centers received and filled thousands of suspicious orders placed by pharmacies participating in illicit Internet schemes, but failed to report the orders to DEA.
They did so even after an Aug. 22, 2005, meeting at which DEA officials met with and warned Cardinal officials about excessive sales of their products to pharmacies filling illegal online prescriptions.
The pharmacies filled purported online ‘prescriptions’ for hydrocodone (contained in drugs such as Vicodin), but the prescriptions were issued outside the normal course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.
The U.S. Attorneys allege that the orders that Cardinal received from these pharmacies, and others, were unusually large, unusually frequent and/or deviated substantially from the normal pattern.”
One Cleveland, Ohio, lawsuit against Cardinal Health points out that wholesale distributors cannot plausibly argue that they’re simply delivering goods and have no power to control the amount, like that of a trucking company, since they are by law “required to ‘maintain … effective controls against diversion’ and to ‘design and operate a system to disclose … suspicious orders of controlled substances.'”23
As Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told The Columbus Dispatch,24 “They know exactly what they’re hauling, where they’re hauling, who they’re selling to and, most importantly, how much …”
Multistate settlement discussions underway
August 6, 2019, The Columbus Dispatch published a follow-up to this ongoing story.25 According to anonymous sources, the three largest distributors — Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson — have allegedly proposed a $10 billion, yes, folks, BILLIONS with a B, multistate settlement to close a number of cases against them. Yet this may still fall far short of what the opioid epidemic is actually costing us.
A Verus press release26 confirms the existence of a “comprehensive settlement” for hundreds of communities that are part of the MDL in the Northern District of Ohio under Judge Dan Aaron Polster, but it does not specify an amount. According to The Columbus Dispatch:27
“The National Association of Attorneys General — handling talks on behalf of more than 35 states — countered with a demand for $45 billion to cover costs from the public-health crisis of opioid addiction and overdoses …
Whether the distributors and attorneys general can agree to a deal remains uncertain. But reaching a compromise might not be the toughest hurdle.
The distributors face almost 2,000 additional lawsuits brought by cities and counties across the U.S., with a separate group of lawyers leading the litigation. Getting them to sign on to any deal could prove challenging …
A global settlement covering all opioid manufacturers and distributors might end up costing the companies a combined $30 billion to $55 billion, according to analysts at Nephron Research, an independent health-care investment research firm. Wells Fargo analyst David Maris said a final tally could be even higher, at almost $100 billion.”
Johns Hopkins public health professor Caleb Alexander, an expert witness for the defendants in the MDL under Judge Polster, who is working on a national 10-year abatement plan, believes the cost of abatement will be greater than $480 billion. This cost includes addiction treatment, preventative education, foster care for children whose parents have died from overdoses and criminal justice resources.28
Struggling with opioid addiction? Please seek help
It will be interesting to see what comes from these cases, now numbering in the thousands and difficult to keep track of. In the meantime, educating yourself and your family — especially your children, but also elderly parents and grand-parents — about the dangers of these drugs is paramount.
Regardless of the brand of opioid you use, it’s vitally important to realize they are extremely addictive drugs and not meant for long-term use for nonfatal conditions. Chemically, opioids are similar to heroin. If you wouldn’t consider using heroin for a toothache or backache, seriously reconsider taking an opioid to relieve this type of pain.
In many cases, you’ll be able to control pain without using medications. In my previous article, “Billionaire Opioid Executive Stands to Make Millions More on Patent for Addiction Treatment,” I discuss several approaches — including nondrug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions — that can be used separately or in combination to control pain, both acute and chronic.
If you’ve been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking a higher dosage, or taking the drug more often, you may already be addicted. Resources where you can find help include the following. You can also learn more in “How to Wean Off Opioids.”
- Your workplace Employee Assistance Program
- The Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration29 can be contacted 24 hours a day at 1-800-622-HELP
According to the most recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 39.8% of all U.S. adults are obese. The same data show the obesity prevalence in children ages 2 to 19 years is 18.5%, and is expected to rise to 20.6% in adolescents from 12 to 19 years.2
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,3 an individual who weighs more than what’s considered normal for their height is described as overweight or obese. According to the CDC, the percentage of youth who are overweight or obese has more than tripled since the 1970s.4
There are several factors contributing to these rising percentages, including shorter sleep duration, metabolic inefficiency, poor eating and low levels of physical activity.5 Children who are obese are also more likely to develop health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease and disability.6
The growing number of those who are overweight and obese directly feeds the weight loss industry, which market researchers anticipated would grow in 2018 to a value of $70.3 billion.7
While the final reports are not yet out on whether those numbers were actually reached, a summary of Marketdata’s research8 showed the greatest gains were expected in the commercial chains and meal replacement programs, with a trend toward ketogenic diets as well as diets high in protein. One market that was identified as untapped and underserved included overweight adolescents.
WW losing consumer base opens up to teens
However, even as researchers anticipated strong growth in the weight loss industry, one iconic company has been posting losses. WW, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, rebranded their company in September 2018 in an effort to become the world’s partner in wellness. According to Mindy Grossman, president and chief executive officer:9
“No matter what your goal is — to lose weight, eat healthier, move more, develop a positive mind-set, or all of the above — we will deliver science-based solutions that fit into people’s lives. This is just the beginning of our journey to become the world’s partner in wellness, and I am inspired by the potential for our impact.”
The company posted a poor fourth quarter 2018 performance with declining memberships for 2019. One marketing analyst believes this might be in part due to their rebranding, as well as the declining popularity of “dieting.”10 Early in 2018, the company offered free membership to teens between ages 13 to 17.
While the company said they were aiming at helping children develop good habits at a critical age, CNN11 reported Weight Watchers expected the tactic to engage young customers who could become loyal for years. The company’s goal was to impact 10 million lives with 5 million people in the program by the end of 2020 and another 5 million using other company content.12
The announcement angered many parents who felt counting calories and engaging in a weight loss program may give rise to unhealthy eating behaviors. However, Time magazine reports WW CEO Mindy Grossman responded by saying,13 “It actually strengthened our resolve and made us offensive.”
The answer didn’t go down well with Lori Ciotti, regional assistant vice president of the Renfrew Center, an organization that bills itself as having treated more than 75,000 adolescents for eating disorders.14 Ciotti spoke to Today, saying:15
“Dieting is a slippery slope into an eating disorder. It sends a message that one should not listen to their body’s hunger or fullness cues, so it’s really concerning from that perspective.
I think what (Weight Watchers) is doing here is offering a sanctioned method of counting calories or points or whatever they want to call it. It’s not teaching teens anything about self-care or self-worth. Instead it teaches them that their worth is about a number on a scale or the back of their jeans.”
Appearing to aim at childhood obesity, WW lowers the bar
As the company appears to take aim at childhood obesity in their well-publicized “wellness” campaigns, they have now announced the release of a smartphone app for children as young as 8.16 In their notice, Gary Foster, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at WW said:17
“At WW, we have decades of expertise in scaling science-backed behavior change programs, uniquely positioning us to be a part of the solution to address the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity.
Alongside a distinguished group of leaders in pediatric health and nutrition, we’ve carefully developed this platform to be holistic, rewarding and inspirational so kids, teens and families get the tools and guidance they need to manage their environment and build and sustain healthy habits.”
The “distinguished group” to which Foster is likely referring are the scientists at Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program.18 The Stanford program was licensed by the app’s founder, Joanna Strober, who helped develop the original app, Kurbo.19
That app was designed to help children learn healthier eating patterns without parental involvement. This app did not produce metrics like calories, carbs and sugar, but rewarded children for their food choices with a red, yellow or green light. After WW purchased the product, they made a few changes.20
With the WW version, parents have greater involvement, and for an optional monthly subscription, children may work with coaches. Parents also have the option of joining the sessions. WW also added options children can track, such as weight loss, body measurements and Snapchat-style tracking streaks.21 Children enter their height, weight, age and goals, and then log what they eat.22
In an earlier free progra, WW targeted teens aged 13 to 17. But in an effort to take advantage of smartphone applications, children’s affinity for using smartphones and the childhood obesity epidemic, WW aimed the Kurbo app at children as young as 8. In their press release, the company says the program:23
“ … builds on Kurbo’s evidence-based mobile platform to help children and teenagers, with support from their families, make lifestyle changes while receiving guidance around sustainable healthy eating, physical activity and mindfulness habits. Kurbo by WW is currently available in the U.S., and the free Kurbo app can be accessed through iOS Apple Store and Google Play.”
Dieting may have the opposite effect
Despite the company’s assertion that this is a program that teaches healthy eating choices, critics counter that it’s nothing more than a weight loss program for children, which they believe will contribute to children’s eating disorders. The backlash has gained a substantial following of people filing a Change.org petition calling for WW to remove the app.24
In explaining why she thinks WW’s app is counterintuitive to WW’s stated goals for it, Tomi Akanbi, clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, warns that encouraging children and teenagers to count calories like many adults do is dangerous.25 She routinely counsels patients who have adopted weight loss programs used by their parents without realizing that the nutritional needs of teens are different from those in other age groups.
By focusing on calories, many teenagers tend to skip meals or replace foods with empty calories from junk foods. Akanbi goes on to say focusing on weight can also lead to eating disorders, especially in teenage girls who feel pushed by media images to conform to a specific image. Following the announcement of the free summer program for teens, she said to CNBC
“Weight Watchers really is dieting and focusing on just weight, and research has shown when the focus is on weight and dieting in teens, that is not an effective way to promote and sustain weight loss. It’s not even helpful to promote overall wellness because we’re also talking about body image and how these kids are experiencing themselves and food and their bodies, and dieting does not help with that.”
In support of this line of thinking, some experts have suggested weight loss efforts in childhood may result in body image dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control behaviors, including disordered eating, if the behavior is not severe enough to warrant diagnosis of an eating disorder.26
A small study using a survey and two workshops delved into it deeper, with researchers gathering data about how young people interact with fitness mobile apps. The aim was to identify risks and negative experiences about how current fitness apps may or may not exacerbate risky eating behaviors.27
The researchers concluded there was a need for consideration around the design of these apps when used for teenagers who are vulnerable to poor body image and maladaptive eating behaviors.28 Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised doctors and families to avoid the use of “weight” in their talks with teens and instead focus on healthy lifestyles.29
Calorie counting is not the answer
The AAP stresses families focus on eating a healthy diet and get plenty of physical activity rather than focusing on weight loss, if they want to reduce the risk of their teens developing an eating disorder:30
“Family involvement in treatment of teen obesity and EDs [eating disorders] has been determined to be more effective than an adolescent-only focus. An integrated approach to the prevention of obesity and EDs focuses less on weight and more on healthy family-based lifestyle modifications that can be sustained …
… AAP recommendations include discouraging dieting, skipping of meals or the use of diet pills; promoting a positive body image; encouraging more frequent family meals; and suggesting that families avoid talking about weight.”
The AAP also stressed that making healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables more accessible while limiting sugars and refined carbohydrates is one way to positively address weight without directly talking about it. The pediatricians also suggest working on helping children make lifestyle changes, such as limiting TV and screen time and promoting physical activity — and I agree.
In addition to the possibility that counting calories or counting points may promote an unhealthy relationship with food31 and increase a teen’s risk of developing an eating disorder, the act of counting calories is not the answer to maintaining a healthy weight or overall health.
The fatal flaw in counting calories is you don’t pay attention to the nutrition you’re eating. The calorie-counting theory is that whatever calories you take in, as long as you burn them off, you will either maintain your weight or lose weight. But that way of thinking is simply wrong: All calories are not alike — while you may like to believe 100 calories in an apple and 100 calories in a cookie are identical, they are not.
The real science says that calories you get from whole, unprocessed foods feed your cells and reduce your risk of disease, including obesity. Foods from processed meals include high amounts of sugar or fructose as well as chemicals that may trigger weight gain.32
Cyclical ketosis supports balanced weight and health
Like the AAP states, more important than counting calories is focusing on bringing home healthy foods and watching where your teens are spending their lunch money. While Grossman has attributed part of the problem with WW’s poor earnings in late 2018 to the keto diet,33 she’s failed to realize that one reason the keto “diet” — which is aimed at adults — is working is because you don’t count calories. Instead, you focus on eating healthy, which is just what the AAP prescribes.
The good news is that keto also aligns with the AAP’s guidance in that you don’t eat processed foods or refined sugars when you “go keto.” The truth is children need protection from the junk food industry and you can help your children eat healthy and learn to make healthy food choices by simply refusing to buy processed foods, and concentrating on stocking your pantry with organic, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Go the extra step and skip fast food restaurants and cook and eat at home, and you’ll be well on your way to teaching them healthy eating.
You can also help by getting your kids moving. Overweight and obese children need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and may benefit from closer to 60 minutes. But, even if your child is not overweight, you should encourage him or her to take part in physically engaging activities after school and on the weekends.
For older teens and young adults who are motivated to try the keto way to health on their own, it’s crucial to understand which fats are good for you and which are not. Most Americans consume harmful fats like processed vegetable oils, which will invariably worsen your health.
So when we’re talking about boosting consumption of dietary fats, we’re referring to natural, unprocessed fat, found in real foods such as seeds, nuts, butter, olives, avocado and coconut oil. A more extensive list of examples can be found in “Basic Introduction to Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy.”
If they want to go the next step and consider ketofasting, it’s even more important to remember that this isn’t about skipping meals, but of understanding that cyclical ketosis lies in the metabolic flexibility your body achieves as it is able to burn glucose and ketones for fuel.
Unfortunately, eating over a 12-hour period or more during the day radically increases your risk for obesity as your body is only adapted to burning glucose and it’s not flexible enough to burn ketones or fat for fuel.
In addition to metabolic flexibility and the reduction in the risk for metabolic syndrome, cyclical ketosis accelerates autophagy34 during which your body eliminates damaged organelles and intracellular pathogens.35
This essential cleaning process encourages the growth of healthy cells and is a foundation for longevity. Intermittent fasting may be one of the most profound interventions you can do to radically improve your health, increase your body’s ability to preferentially burn visceral fat36 and help you shed excess weight37 all while extending your lifespan.
Instead of picking up the newest smartphone app, consider going on a journey of discovery with your teenagers, seeking out some of your locally grown produce, eliminating the processed foods and incorporating intermittent fasting. Each of these nutritional strategies helps support your overall health and weight control.
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