Experts want to stop children's weight loss app being released in New Zealand

A number of petitions are calling for a ban on a controversial new weight-loss smartphone app, and experts here want to stop the technology from being released in New Zealand.

'Kurbo' has just been launched in the US by Weight Watchers, and targets children and teenagers.

In an age of Instagram models and "fitspiration", it's another piece of technology to pile on the pressure.

'Kurbo' is a dieting app aimed at children aged between eight and 17-years-old.

Children enter their age, weight, height and health goals, and a traffic light system tells them what food is good and bad.

A coach also checks in via video chat for 15 minutes every week.

Weight Watchers (WW) says Kurbo "focuses on behaviour change, not dieting or calorie counting, and doesn't cause eating disorders".

A rundown of how the app works.
A rundown of how the app works. Photo credit: Kurbo

But a Kiwi eating disorder expert, Sarah Peck, disagrees.

"One of the outcomes of dieting is increased weight," she told Newshub. "So that works for a really good business model for diet companies like WW."

Peck told Newshub that dieting leaves teenagers between five and 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.

"I have 60-year-olds sitting in my clinic who will still sit there and talk about the pain and shame of going on a diet at eight-years-old.

It's a sentiment echoed by thousands who have criticised WW online, and it seems the app may also not fly with Kiwi parents.

"I think that's a very strange and weird idea," one told Newshub.

But with one in eight Kiwi children living with obesity, dietician Lea Stening says something has to be done.

"It's better to relax and look at the healthiness of the family meals, and to help families to eat healthier so that it's just not singling out the child."

It's not yet known when the app will make its way to New Zealand, but so far its benefits aren't weighing up.