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Frequent weight checks tied to less self-esteem for young women

Teens who often weigh themselves may be more likely to have mental health problems, according to a new study.

Girls who said they often weigh themselves were more likely to have depression, weight concerns and self esteem issues, researchers found.

“The findings from this study suggest that for some teens and young adults, self-weighing is associated with poor psychological health and it is important that we use caution when recommending self-weighing or any strategy for weight control that may not be beneficial for some individuals,” said lead author Carly R. Pacanowski, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The 10-year study tracked almost 2,000 adolescents, most of whom were female. They were surveyed, weighed and measured in 1998, when they were in middle or high school and then again in 2003 and 2008 as they transitioned into young adulthood.

Overall, few participants agreed that they weighed themselves "often," the researchers reported in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

But among women whose reports of self-weighing increased over time, so did their weight concern and symptoms of depression, which can be predictors of eating disorders, researchers found.

For men, as reported self-weighing increased, so did concern about weight, but other psychological variables did not change.

Parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, and friends may want to ask about self-weighing to gather more information if a teen seems overly concerned with her weight, Pacanowski told Reuters Health by email.

“Self-weighing may be easier to talk about initially than self-esteem or depressive symptoms,” Pacanowski said. “From there, getting in touch with a healthcare provider would be the next step.”

Obesity-prevention programs should avoid worsening body dissatisfaction and weight concern by understanding how behaviors like self-weighing affect teens, she said.

Pacanowski also cautioned that the new study can't say whether self-weighing causes low self-esteem, or low self-esteem causes teens or young adults to weigh themselves more frequently.

The new study is also limited by the use of the subjective term "often" to gauge the frequency of self-weighing over time, said Jessica LaRose, a health behavior and policy researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, who was not part of the new study.

“Thus, in terms of clinical implications for pediatricians, we can't determine using these data whether there is a specific threshold or frequency of self-weighing in this age group that could serve as a signal to explore mental health symptoms and well being,” LaRose told Reuters Health by email.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1kK5NrP Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior, online November 9, 2015.

U.S. startups aim to help seniors ‘age in place’

NEW YORK Shari Cayle, 75, called "Miracle Mama" by her family ever since she beat back advanced colon cancer seven years ago, is still undergoing treatment and living alone.

"I don’t want my grandchildren to remember me as the sick one, I want to be the fun one," said Cayle, who is testing a device that passively monitors her activity. "My family knows what I’m doing and I don’t think they should have to change their life around to make sure I’m OK."

Onkol, a product inspired by Cayle that monitors her front door, reminds her to when to take her medication and can alert her family if she falls has allowed her to remain independent at home. Devised by her son Marc, it will hit the U.S. market next year.

As more American seniors plan to remain at home rather than enter a nursing facility, new startups and some well-known technology brands are connecting them to family and healthcare providers.

The noninvasive devices sit in the background as users go about their normal routine. Through Bluetooth technology they are able to gather information and send it to family or doctors when, for example, a sensor reads that a pill box was opened or a wireless medical device such as a glucose monitor is used.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute, at-home options like these will disrupt roughly $64 billion of traditional U.S. provider revenue in the next 20 years.

Monitoring devices for the elderly started with products like privately-held Life Alert, which leapt into public awareness nearly 30 years ago with TV ads showing the elderly “Mrs. Fletcher” reaching for her Life Alert pendant and telling an operator, "I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!"

Now companies like Nortek Security & Control and small startups are taking that much further.

The challenge though is that older consumers may not be ready to use the technology and their medical, security and wellness needs may differ significantly. There are also safety and privacy risks.

“There’s a lot of potential, but a big gap between what seniors want and what the market can provide,” said Harry Wang, director of health and mobile product research at Parks Associates.


Milwaukee-based Onkol developed a rectangular hub, roughly the size of a tissue box, that passively monitors things like what their blood glucose reading is and when they open their refrigerator. There is also a wristband that can be pressed for help in an emergency.

"The advantage of it is that the person, the patient, doesn’t have to worry about hooking it up and doing stuff with the computer, their kids do that," said Cayle, whose son co-founded Onkol.

Sensely is another device used by providers like Kaiser Permanente, based in California, and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. Since 2013, its virtual nurse Molly has connected patients with doctors from a mobile device. She asks how they are feeling and lets them know when it is time to take a health reading.

    Another startup, San Francisco-based Lively began selling its product to consumers in 2012. Similarly, it collects information from sensors and connects to a smart watch that tracks customers’ footsteps, routine and can even call emergency services. Next year it will connect with medical devices, send data to physicians and enable video consultations that can replace some doctor's appointments.

Venture firms including Fenox Venture Capital, Maveron, Capital Midwest Fund and LaunchPad Digital Health have contributed millions of dollars to these startups.

Ideal Life, founded in 2002, which sells it own devices to providers, plans to release its own consumer version next year.

“The clinical community is more open than they’ve even been before in piloting and testing new technology,” said founder Jason Goldberg.

Just this summer, Nortek bought a personal emergency response system called Libris and a healthcare platform from Numera, a health technology company, for $12 million. At the same time, Nortek said some of its smart home customers like ADT Corp want to expand into health and wellness offerings. The goal is to offer software that connects with customers' current systems as well as medical, fitness, emergency and security devices.

“In the smart home and health space today you see a lot of single purpose solutions that don’t offer a full connectivity platform, like a smart watch or pressure sensor in a bed,” said Mike O'Neal, Nortek Security & Control president. “We’re creating that connectivity.”

A July study from AARP showed Americans 50 years and older want activity monitors like Fitbit and Jawbone to have more relevant sensors to monitor health conditions and 89 percent cited difficulties with set up.

"They (companies) have great technology, but when you can’t open the package or you can't find directions that's a problem," said Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of thought leadership at AARP.

Such products may help doctors keep up with a growing elderly population. Research firm Gartner estimates that in the next 40 years, one-third of the population in developed countries will be 65 years or older, thus making it impossible to keep everyone who needs care in the hospital.

(Reporting by Kylie Gumpert, Editing by Michele Gershberg and Diane Craft)

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