Dieting app for kids sparks controversy

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(WFLA/CNN) – A new weight loss app aimed at children is facing backlash.

Kurbo is a healthy-eating program that was just launched by Weight Watchers. The program is designed for kids ages 8 through 17.

Kurbo uses what’s described as a traffic light system to promote portion control. Kids can eat whatever they want but veggies and fruits are categorized as green, meat and pasta is yellow and candy and soda is red.

The company says it’s proven to be a safe way for effective weight loss, but critics say it could lead kids to have lifelong problems with food.

Medical professionals at Melrose Center in Minnesota, a center that treats people with eating disorders, say they do not recommend the Kurbo app for kids or teens.

“We know that dieting for children is not healthy,” Clinical Director Heather Gallivan said. “I think it is challenging on how to approach that with children and adolescents. You have to be very careful about how you talk about these things and the messages you’re sending.”

Gallivan says one of the mixed messages she’s talking about is the “success stories” listed on Kurbo’s website. There are before and after pictures of kids, and how much weight they lost on the program.

“It feels so serious for a child to be thinking about that kind of complexity of how you eat, how you exercise, but at the same time it’s necessary,” one parent said.

Kurbo responded to the criticism saying, “Kurbo by Weight Watchers focuses on behavior change for healthier eating and more activity, not dieting or calorie counting.”

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