The National Health and Medical Research Council in Sydney Australia is underwriting and conducting a study known as “The Fast Track to Health.” This twelve (12) month study will be performed on guinea pigs … uh, children from the ages of 13 years to 17 years of age.
The Fast Track website states, “This is a research study for young people well above a healthy weight.”
This Study requires the children to follow extreme calorie restriction diets (800 calories per day) for one month. This will then be followed by 12 months of low calorie dieting for half the participants, and alternate day fasting for the other half. Children in the fasting group would eat just 600–700 calories a day for three days a week, approximately 25–35 per cent of estimated daily energy needs. The remaining four days would be a standard diet.
According to the website of the $1.2 million dollar study, the study’s aim is to “determine if MADF [Modified Alternate Day Fasting] is effective, safe and acceptable to adolescents compared to a standard weight control diet”.
In a co-signed letter to the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) at Sydney Children’s Hospitals, 29 health experts from Australia and the United States expressed concern that MADF is not safe nor effective for children. These experts are demanding that the study be abandoned claiming it poses unacceptable risks to children’s health.
In responding to the complaints, Ms. Asra Gholami, executive officer of research ethics at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, wrote: “The HREC recognises that there is a risk for a young person to develop an eating disorder with exposure to restrictive diets, and in particular very restrictive diets. Although these risks appear to be lower in medically supervised dieting programs, they will still be present.”
Ms. Gholami then digs her grave even deeper by stating that the risk of children developing an eating disorder is justified because of the potential for the participants to lose weight.
The Fast Track study researchers also acknowledge previous fasting diet studies did not produce long-term weight loss results.
The final nail in this ill-advised coffin is despite the fact that HREC is acknowledging the risks and limitations of the study in correspondence with health professionals, this information is not being given to the parents when signing their child up for the study.
To summarize, it would appear as if the researchers acknowledge the risk that some of their guinea pigs will develop an eating disorder as a result of this trial; that previous studies did not produce long-term weight loss results, and; they are not going to make complete disclosure of the risks and limitations to the parents of the guinea pigs.
It would appear as if the HREC’s position is that they are going to take children who mainstream society would consider obese, children who already may be very emotionally vulnerable and at high risk, and subject them to conditions which could, and in all reasonable medical probability, will result in some of them developing an eating disorder, a disease that we know has the highest mortality rate amongst all mental illnesses.
One can also speculate that if even one of these children dies as a direct result of developing and then succumbing to an eating disorder is that too high of a price to pay for some subjective results from this study? Are two children too many? What is the price in blood that would need to be paid for a study that in all reasonable likelihood, cannot be duplicated outside of the alleged “strict parameters” the HREC is implementing?
Past recent articles have focused on the Health at Any Size Movement. Chevese Turner is the Founder, President and CEO of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (“BEDA”) which has merged with the National Eating Disorder Association. I respect Mr. Turner very much for amongst other reasons she is a champion of the Health at Any Size Movement. She has commented and educated with passion and resolve. Amongst other statements, she said, “Many people don’t talk about it or speak up when HAES is challenged because the research community can be pretty condescending about their views and shut clinicians down. For this reason, a smaller group of HAES aligned clinicians and advocates have been speaking out and “disrupting”. We’re tired of being misinterpreted and condescended. We’re also tired of the harm being done to fat folx with EDs. At some point people have to stand up, but this is not received well within current power structures.”
And if ever there was a time for the HREC researchers to stand up and listen to champions like Ms. Turner, the time is at hand. Yes, 29 professionals have objected to this misguided study. But, that is not enough. More pressure needs to be brought to bear.
We know that the Academy for Eating Disorders (“AED”) is holding its International Conference in Sydney, Australia in June 2020. Eating disorders scientists, research doctors and clinicians will be flying into Sydney from all parts of the globe. The economic boon to Sydney and Australia will undoubtedly be well over $1,200,000, the cost of the study. If AED was not even approached about the HREC study and is not yet one of the 29 experts who have complained about this study, imagine the impact were AED to rise up as one and submit its concerns to HREC.
In 2014, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists issued some comprehensive clinical practice guidelines for treating eating disorders. I failed to locate that portion of that study indicating that starving your patients though a grossly restrictive diet was an effective and recommended clinical practice. Certainly, if the RANZCP has not yet responded with the strongest rebuke possible since this ill-advised study goes against the very substance of the 2014 clinical study, it needs to take that action.
In 2019, it is incredible to believe that any competent medical practitioner would endorse starvation through diet as an effective means to battle what society regards as “obesity.” The HREC’s anachronistic view on eating disorders and starvation diets is tantamount to using leeches, bloodletting and implanting goat testicles as mainstream medical treatment.
Otherwise, what can be done? Joan Riederer, the founder of the “Sock It To Ed Foundation,” in honor of her beloved daughter Erin Riederer, posted a petition on its Facebook page to let your voices be heard. That link is set forth below.
A starvation diet for our children to battle obesity. Acknowledging that the diet could result in the development of eating disorders. And, not making full disclosure to parents. Should even one beloved child die as a result, the ramifications could be much worse than just civil litigation. If you choose to gamble with a child’s life by exposing them to a known risk which could result in their death, the criminal justice system awaits you … and deservedly so.
Joan’s petition …