Childhood Obesity and More Technology


Facebook is still an immensely popular social medium, and researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital believe they see a correlation between the interests of Facebook users and their weight:

… [T]he more people in a certain area or region who ‘like’ or share information on healthy activities on Facebook, the lower the likelihood of that area having a high obesity rate. Similarly, the more people in a certain area or region who ‘like’ or share information about TV on Facebook, the higher the likelihood of that area having a higher obesity rate.

Dr. John Brownstein of the Boston Children’s Hospital suggests that this kind of information could help with the targeting of public health campaigns, and with the measurement of their success.

This seems related to what Dan Bowman discusses in a piece about computerized GIS, or geographic information, where the goal is to analyze trends and act as a tool in prevention programs. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported on a series of studies using this technology. Bowman says:

In one study, GIS was used in Seattle and San Diego to help evaluate a child’s environment and how it contributes to the potential for obesity based on ‘playability’ and ‘proximity to health food.’ The technology measured how many parks and playgrounds were within walking distance in various neighborhoods as well as the number of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants to rate the areas’ nutritional and physical health advantages and disadvantages.

This next item is not a computer model but an actual object, an electronic fork called the HAPIfork. One thing it is interested in monitoring is how long it takes a person to eat the whole meal, as well as how long between bites.

The company’s literature says:

This information is then uploaded via USB to your Online Dashboard to track your progress. The HAPIfork also comes with the HAPILABS app plus a coaching program to help improve your eating behavior.

Overeating is not the only danger that people face from eating too fast. They don’t chew, so the digestive system has to work overtime. Gastic reflux becomes a very real possibility. One group that seemingly could benefit greatly from this device is the population of post-op bariatic surgery patients. They really need all the help they can get in taking control, in order to avoid messing up the surgery and making things even worse.

All the weight-control advice that centers around the actual act of ingestion makes mention of the importance of eating slowly. For starters, the body is able to extract more nutrition from food that is chewed thoroughly. It’s important to eat slowly enough to actually enjoy the taste and texture of the food, because the reason a lot of people overeat is for the sensory pleasure of it. To bolt food down like a starving sled dog is to countervail the very reason for eating. The more the flavors are savored, so goes the theory, the less the person will be tempted to overindulge.

Even more important, it has been known for years that it takes the brain about 20 minutes to realize that feeding has taken place, and enough sustenance has been taken in. Eating slowly gives the brain more of chance to catch up, and to send out the signals that say, “Enough, already.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Facebook Activity Is Reflection Of U.S. Obesity Rates, Study Find,” The Huffington Post, 04/25/13
Source: “Mapping technology could help fight childhood obesity,” FierceHealthIT, 04/13/12
Source: “Hapifork, Eat Slowly — Lose Weight — Feel Great,”
Image by Mike Dot Mike.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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