Monday, February 05, 2007

Britain: Anti-obesity message 'is driving girls to anorexia'

Focus on food 'leads to bullying'; Health policy may have gone too far

Children are becoming obsessed with calorie-counting and face increased playground bullying about their weight as a result of the Government’s antiobesity campaign, experts said yesterday. Pupils are overloaded with information about healthy eating, which can lead to a preoccupation with food and fuel the development of eating disorders, according to the specialists.

Ministers have raised the spectre of an increasingly unhealthy society, citing the statistic that more than 13 per cent of British children are already obese and promising millions of pounds for nutritious school meals and cooking lessons. Obese children have been put on the child protection register, and the Department of Health has attempted to weigh every primary school child in England to assess the scale of the problem.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the Eating Disorders Association, told The Times that the focus on healthy eating has made life more difficult for many young people. “I am concerned that the emphasis on childhood obesity is having a backlash. We know people who are bullied about their shape are far more likely to develop eating disorders and there is now even more focus on overweight young people,” she said.

Health campaigners have pushed successfully for clearer nutritional labelling on food, but Ms Ringwood argued that for those vulnerable to eating problems, the prevalence of information on calories and fat content is unhelpful.

“Even things intended to be helpful, such as traffic lights for high-fat foods, play into the hands of people who are obsessed about eating. It gives them more to obsess about.”

She wants ministers to broaden their message to address the emotional relationship people have with food. “I can see why the Government had to go for a broad brush approach at first, but nothing so far has touched on the emotional aspects of eating,” she said.

“It’s all very well being able to count calories, but eating is an emotional experience too. As well as the advice on eating five fruit and vegetables a day, we should be helping people understand how food makes us feel. It is not just fuel.”

David Wood, consultant psychiatrist at the Ellern Mede Centre, a residential unit for children with eating disorders in North London, argued that there was a “cultural anxiety” about obesity which young people could latch on to. He also suggested that the pro-health message might have gone too far. “There are some important details about healthy eating that we should recognise but most of us, as long as we eat a balanced diet, can actually manage quite a few McDonald’s if we choose,” he said.

“There is a moralistic tone to the healthy eating agenda — but also about consumption more generally — which suggests that if you give in to ‘base’ desires such as eating chocolate and cream you are somehow weak.”

The focus on food, he argued, was part of a trend. He said: “It is about living in a highly-developed consumer society, where there is too much of everything, so that if you can restrain yourself are a superior being. And anorexia is all about self-regulation, and so its sufferers latch on to this message.”


'Everyone our age thinks they eat badly'

For the inpatients at Rhodes Farm, a specialist residential centre in North London for children with eating disorders, the Government's constant mantra of obesity epidemics, nutritious school meals and five-a-day is weighing heavily on some very slight shoulders. "When I first started to lose weight, it was because I thought I ate unhealthily," says 17-year-old Helen. "Everyone our age thinks that they are eating unhealthily because they have chocolate. You're told no fat, no sugar...Then when you come here and you are made to eat it's even harder, because it goes against all the messages."

Claire, who at 12 is among the youngest of the 19 girls and one boy currently at the centre, agrees. "More and more people cut foods out - they think you can't eat things that are perfectly normal to have."

Dee Dawson, the medical director of Rhodes Farm, argues that the current healthy eating drive needs to be steered away from children. "A lot of the propaganda leads you to believe that if you keep cutting down you will keep getting healthier," she says. "I never hear about a bottom line, below which cutting down is a bad thing." She also worries that low-fat diets have become the ideal, rather than balanced eating, plus exercise. "Children need fat. If they run around and exercise, as they should, they burn a lot of calories.

"It's almost impossible these days for a child to get through school without her feeling like she should be dieting or eating something special. They have mums who jog and worry about carbs, Jamie Oliver telling them not to do things, notes home saying they shouldn't bring certain things in packed lunches, vending machines being taken out of schools. A child should not even be thinking about their diet, their weight."

She says that for boys and younger girls, "size zero" was not an issue. "Anorexic boys are usually athletes, who see thinness as the way to be successful and go too far. Girls at 12 don't want to look like Victoria Beckham - they' re too young. That becomes an issue when they get older and start to develop. And let's get things in proportion; these children have huge other problems too."



When the kid grows up, what do you think he will say about the busybodies who said he should never have been born? He's living a "wrongful life" is he?

A 56-year-old woman who has given birth in a Brisbane hospital is believed to be the oldest IVF mother in Australia. The woman, who was 36 weeks' pregnant, gave birth last week after undergoing treatment at the Queensland Fertility centre. Sources said the woman was the recipient of a donor egg after raising three other children aged from their mid-teens to mid-30s. They said the mother also required treatment with the heart drug Digoxin following the birth at the Mater Hospital on Tuesday.

The mother has refused to comment on the case but The Sunday Mail has been told she was forced to move suburbs because of "negativity towards her pregnancy". Her husband is believed to be aged in his mid-30s.

The case is being investigated by the Fertility Society of Australia Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee - which provides accreditation for IVF clinics - over whether it breached the self-regulating industry's code of practice. But because there are no age limits in the code, which stipulates only against any fertility treatment that may be harmful to the mother or baby, the body is unable to take any action against the clinic. "I am not aware of any older women than this," RTAC chairman Ossie Petrucco said yesterday.

It is the second time in two years the clinic has been targeted by RTAC. In 2005, founding QFG director Warren DeAmbrosis was scrutinised after he helped Brisbane woman Dale Chalk fall pregnant with her second set of quads - believed to be a world first. The high-powered IVF Directors Group, comprising medical directors from every IVF clinic in Australia and New Zealand, stopped short of punishing Dr DeAmbrosis but pushed for the industry to do everything it could to avoid such an outcome again.

According to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, the success rate for women aged between 40 and 44, who had undergone fertility treatment, was 7.1 per cent, compared with 33.5 per cent for women aged 23 to 24 years. The average age of women undergoing treatment in 2004 in Australia and New Zealand was 35.4 and their partners were 37.8.

In 1998, an Adelaide woman, 53, gave birth to triplets after undergoing an IVF treatment with embryos she and her husband had stored years earlier. In January 2005, 66-year-old Romanian woman Adriana Iliescu became the world's oldest mother after giving birth to a daughter after conceiving through IVF with a donor egg.

Meanwhile, a simple test that more than doubles the chance of having a healthy baby could transform the IVF process. Scientists have found a way to test the genetic make-up of a woman's eggs, allowing the best to be chosen. A trial has produced more than 30 healthy babies and dramatically increased the success rate. Perfected by doctors in Las Vegas, comparative genomic hybridisation counts the number of chromosomes in an egg. Up to 75 per cent of miscarriages are thought to be due to embryos having the wrong number of chromosomes, with eggs from older women particularly likely to be defective.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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