The Fast Track to Health trial is a weight loss experiment which will expose teenagers to a severely restrictive diet for 12 months. This extreme weight loss trial carries huge risk for the teenagers' mental, physical, and psycho-social well-being.
Extreme Diet = Extreme Risk
An established body of research demonstrates that severe dieting, such as that recommended in the Fast Track experiment, is the number one risk factor for eating disorder development. The risk of eating disorder development is at its peak in adolescence.
Multiple complaints have been lodged to the Fast Track trial researchers and to the Ethics committee who approved the trial. Health professionals, medical practitioners, experts in the eating disorders field, eating disorders organisations, and people with lived experience of developing an eating disorder as a result of dieting as a teenager have presented evidence, research, and personal accounts of the risk of teenage dieting to the Fast Track team. Sadly, these complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The researchers believe that any risk is 'minimal and manageable'.
Medically supervised weight loss triggered Emma's eating disorder.
Emma developed an eating disorder after being prescribed a diet by her paediatrician when she was 10 years old. This lead to a battle with Anorexia Nervosa which she has been fighting for 14 years.
"By trusting a paediatrician, a member of an esteemed hospital, my family were sure of the safety attached to such an attempt. Nothing bad could happen, under the gaze of a doctor."
Louise Adams is a clinical psychologist who works with people suffering from eating disorders. Louise, alongside 29 other health professionals, lodged the first group complaint to the Fast Track Ethics Committee. Louise has heard countless stories like Emma's.
"Psychologically the harms are unimaginable, the eating disorder risk is enormous in adolescence."
Emma has shared her story to help parents, young people, and clinicians understand how an eating disorder can take hold even in a place that seems safe - the medical setting.
Once Emma's eating disorder began, it was relentless and unstoppable. She was hospitalised numerous times and fed through a tube. But she was still convinced that she 'should' lose weight.
"Not even being told that I was hours away from a coma shook my resolve. The emphasis on weight loss from one medical professional overshadowed all other advice. No matter how many times I have been told by health professionals that I need to gain weight, the message that an increase of kilograms is a bad thing is etched into my brain.
"I didn’t care that my organs couldn’t function. I didn’t care that I was too scared to swallow my own saliva, should it contain nutrition. All I cared about was how much I weighed. It wasn’t vanity. It was self-preservation. And that is learnt from following clinically-approved starvation."
The severity of the risk is not being communicated to parents.
Ms Asra Gholami, Executive Officer of Research Ethics at the Sydney Children's Hospital admitted 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."
However the Fast Track team continue to claim that they believe that any risk of developing an eating disorder through their trial is 'minimal and manageable'.
Fast Track Team Dismiss Evidence
The Fast Track Trial has dismissed a substantial amount of longitudinal research that shows the reality of this risk:
In a large Australian study of 14 to 15 year olds who were followed for 3 years, dieting was the most important predictor of a developing eating disorder. The stricter the diet, the higher the risk: students who severely restricted their energy intake and skipped meals were 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who didn't.
A study of 17000 9 to 14 year olds showed that dieting was associated with both increased rates of binge eating and weight gain.
The Project EAT study of 2500 kids followed for 5 years showed that dieting doubled the risk of weight gain and also increased binge eating risk.
Sticking To Their Guns
Incredibly, the Fast Track researchers are now alleging that hospital-based dieting under the supervision of professionals is safer than 'unsupervised' dieting. Dr Louise Baur, the lead investigator on the Fast Track, said:
"We are not aware of any studies of young people with obesity that are seeking treatment for their obesity who are at an increased risk of the development of eating disorders."
The Fast Track team know about the research that demonstrates that restrictive dieting increases the risk of eating disorders. But they are going to great lengths to convince us that their restrictive diet is different. Because they are being overseen by health professionals, the team truly believe they are not doing harm.
There's a fundamental problem with this line of reasoning. Dieting is a strongly established risk factor for development of an eating disorder, just as smoking is a strongly established risk factor for developing lung cancer.
The researchers' claims that their diet isn't responsible for eating disorder development is like a cigarette company claiming that it wasn't their brand of cigarettes that caused the cancer. You can imagine how difficult it would be to capture the particular cigarette that sparks the cancer process - but that doesn't mean smoking is safe!
There is no 'safe' level of extreme dieting in adolescence. The risks are real. Eating disorders are a living nightmare, not 'minimal or manageable'. Parents - don't take the risk.
Please read and sign the petition to Stop The Fast Track Trial.