With the ongoing issues created by COVID-19, public health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The government has shown they are determined not to let preventative health fall by the wayside by introducing new measures aimed at “tackling obesity” and reducing inequalities in the availability of healthy food. The new initiatives, which include shorthand labels for healthy choices, restrictions on promotions for HFSS (high fat, sugar or salt) foods, and restrictions on advertising junk food to children, among other measures, seek to promote health at the consumer level, placing fewer reminders of hard-to-resist treats around the average shopper.
Is it enough? We ran a poll last week, and many of you don’t think so. Over 40% said the measures would have no impact, and the second most popular response was “It’s a start, but we need more.”
We haven’t asked yet why so many share these opinions, but there are a few possibilities. For example, some doctors are beginning to think that obesity is a more complex condition than previously believed. Everyone’s food needs are different, and one-size-fits-all solutions have failed before. Regardless of the impact of food-industry rules, technology can help you track and maintain your personal health priorities.
Wearable tech is becoming ever more sophisticated: the latest Fitbit Charge 4 uses GPS to draw you a map of your walks and runs that shows your speed, heart rate, elevation and calories burned at each point along the route. The upcoming Apple Watch 6 will come with blood oxygen monitoring and, rumour has it, the ability to detect poses and energy expenditure in yoga workouts. And if that doesn’t pan out, you can try on the Nadi-X yoga pants with integrated sensors and haptic feedback.
Mobile Health Apps
Mobile health apps often go hand in hand with wearables. For instance, Fitbits come with an app that encourages users to motivate each other by posting their fitness achievements to a social feed. The Qardio app comes with a wearable heart sensor for ECG (electrocardiogram) readings, and the Dexcom app for diabetics links up to a wearable that continuously monitors blood glucose.
Social sharing apps are also helping users make healthy food choices. Education, or the lack of it, creates a huge social divide when it comes to obesity; not everyone is lucky enough to grow up knowing how to cook healthy meals. The Fooducate app is breaking down that barrier, taking healthy recipes shared by users and turning them into a newsfeed of menu options, while Under Armour’s popular MyFitnessPal app uses the Internet of Things to connect users to a vast database of food and calorie information.
The No-Surgery Weight Loss Surgery
For those with mobility restraints weight loss surgery can be a viable option, however are not without risks. Traditionally an invasive procedure, gastric bypass, bands and balloons also come with a lengthy recovery period, which can add to already existing health issues. However medical device company Allurion may have found a solution to this, and has introduced the Elipse, a gastric balloon you can swallow.
In a 20-minute outpatient appointment, you simply swallow a small capsule containing the deflated balloon connected to a thin tube. The doctor then fills the balloon with liquid before gently removing the tube. The Elipse remains in the stomach for 16 weeks, then a time-activated release valve opens, and the balloon deflates and leaves your body naturally, via the toilet.
During those 16 weeks, the average weight loss is 10-15 kgs, or 22-33 lbs; that’s about the weight of a corgi.
Regardless of the outcomes of the government initiatives, the one thing that has become clear from covid-19 pandemic and its resulting mortality, and that is tackling the obesity crisis is more important than ever.