As Americans and people around the world see their health declining, it’s no surprise that more and more individuals are becoming health-conscious. Anytime there is a trend as big as the current focus on health and well-being, there will be enterprises looking to profit from those who are jumping on the bandwagon. One such example is the Fitbit, a device the purports to help people improve their health but in many cases appear to demonstrate the opposite effect.
These fitness trackers are worn as bracelets to keep track of the number of steps that people take in a day, how much sleep they get, how many calories they burn and other metrics depending on the model.
However, they accomplish this using Wi-Fi radiation, which may have very serious health effects such as disfiguring rashes and blood sugar fluctuations that promote weight gain. Making matters worse is the fact that the devices are worn directly against the skin. Cell phone instruction manuals warn people to keep their phones at least an inch away from their bodies at all times because of the radiation dangers, so it’s easy to imagine why wearing these trackers against your wrist at all hours is a bad idea.
Wi-Fi radiation has been classified as a possible carcinogen, and some experts have called for it to be considered a full-fledged carcinogen. No safe level of this type of radiation has been determined for pregnant women and children, yet these groups also wear Fitbits.
In 2014, Fitbit issued a voluntary recall of its Force activity tracker after 10,000 complaints about itchy and irritated wrists were filed. However, ABC 10 reports that newer versions of these products were also giving users rashes so bad that they resulted in scars. Users have also reported symptoms like nausea, headaches, dizziness, pain, and erratic pulse. Many report that their symptoms go away when they stop wearing the device.
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It’s also problematic that so many people are wearing these devices while sleeping. There is no data that proves using them while sleeping is safe. Many experts suggest that people turn all of the wireless sources in their home off at night as Wi-Fi can have a profoundly negative impact on sleep. Even getting just a few nights of bad sleep can spur weight gain, which means that Fitbit wearers could be sabotaging their efforts to lose weight during the day by keeping these devices on their wrist at night.
Study shows Fitbit wearers actually lose less weight
The Daily Mail reported that wearing the device caused 39-year-old Fiona Benbow to gain 14 pounds in just a month. It might be easy to dismiss her story and attribute her weight gain to some other cause. However, a study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that those who wear fitness trackers lost less weight in the long term than those who did not.
In Fiona’s case, she believes that inaccurate data was behind her extreme weight gain. For example, if the device told her she had burned 3000 calories, she believed it was okay to reward herself with a sweet treat. However, its calculations often turn out to be incorrect; these devices are known for overestimating the number of calories that people burn. She ultimately shed pounds by cleaning up her diet and taking a regular power walk.
In the JAMA study, 470 people were told to exercise more and consume a diet low in calories. All of them began to lose weight. After six months, half of the participants were asked to self-report their exercise and diet; the other half wore fitness trackers to keep track of their activity levels. Although both groups had been equally active by the end of two years, those who wore the fitness trackers had actually lost less weight.
The study’s lead author, John Jakicic of the University of Pittsburgh, said he believes the problem is that many wearers justify eating more after seeing how many calories the device claims they’ve burned.
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