Nikki Grahame’s mother is calling for dangerous diet apps to be banned after her daughter’s tragic death
The mother of tragic Big Brother star Nikki Grahame is among campaigners calling for a ban on ‘sick’ fasting apps which encourage weight-loss people to starve themselves.
Impressive young people – many of them struggling with eating disorders – can download some ‘incredibly dangerous’ platforms for free.
This newspaper registered a number of apps and discovered scores of anorexic teenagers using them – some boasting of starving themselves for five days or more.
Sue Grahame, whose daughter Nikki died aged 38 in 2021 after a lifelong battle with anorexia, said the apps should be “scrapped”.
He said: “It’s appalling that these apps even exist. If people need to lose weight, they should see a registered dietitian through their GP.
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“I paid the price for my daughter’s life by being so heavily involved in the idea of losing weight, so any app that promotes calorie counting and fasting feels wrong.”
We discovered the apps to mark the end of Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
A free app, Life, lets you join without giving your age or health information. Ts & Cs states: “We do not encourage, promote or glorify acts of self-harm.”
However, there were selfies with skeletons on the profile pictures, and our reporter was bombarded with pro-anorexia content.
We’ve even found people who have engaged in potentially deadly “dry fasting” – meaning not eating or drinking at all.
One user boasted of feeling “euphoric” after a 24-hour fast, adding nine comments including “I hope to get there one day” and “Congratulations!”
Fasting Plus, which costs £19.49 for three months, also included eating disorder support content.
This allowed a 5ft 5in woman to aim to lose 4 stone, giving her a BMI of 9.3.
A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is ideal for most adults, and anything below 15 could indicate potentially fatal anorexia.
And we joined the free fasting tracker Vora without providing any personal information. There is no limit to how long users can fast, and a quick search turned up anti-anorexia accounts.
Tom Quinn, from eating disorder charity Beat, said: “It is appalling that harmful advice about fasting is so readily available without proper checks.
“Fasting, restricting food or sticking to a diet can be symptoms of an eating disorder, and we know that dieting apps can be incredibly dangerous for people with these mental illnesses.
Apps should remove dangerous content as soon as possible and strengthen health checks.”
The Life app is operated by the medical technology company Life Omic (Indianapolis, USA).
Boss Dr Don Brown has been promoting a diet of 1,200 calories a day – 1,000 fewer than the NHS recommends – and boasts he does a five-day fast “at least twice a year”.
Around 1.2 million Britons have an eating disorder and anorexia has the highest death rate of any mental illness.
NHS hospital admissions for eating disorders have increased by 84% in five years – with almost 10,000 children entering treatment between April and December 2021.
According to NHS Digital data from October, 19% of women and 13% of men who were asked about their eating habits tested positive for an eating disorder.
This rate was 28% for women under the age of 35. Lisa Huse of Life Omic said: “We do not condone unsafe behavior and have the tools to monitor and remove inappropriate groups. We will block and delete flagged accounts and content.”
Fasting Plus said: “Our intermittent fasting app promotes a healthy lifestyle and diet, backed by scientific research, and has helped thousands of people lose weight.
“Unfortunately, there will always be people who use it as an excuse for their eating disorders, so we use a BMI index to let users know when they’ve lost too much weight.”
Vora was taken in for comment.
For help with eating disorders, call Beat on 0808 801 0677 or visit beatingeatingdisorders.org.uk.