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Obese Teens Who Diet Have a Greater Risk of Eating Disorders

Update Date: Sep 06, 2013 03:24 PM EDT

The obesity epidemic, which affects the global community, has motivated government programs and health agencies to find new ways of combatting this growing problem. Since obesity leads to several health conditions and medical costs, nipping it early on is important. However, even though young children and teenagers have become the targets of these campaigns that aims to help them lose weight, a new study warns that obese teenagers who do lose weight are at a high risk of developing eating disorders.

One of the most important things that researchers and doctors have stressed when it comes to weight loss is to do it in a healthy way. Unfortunately, not everyone adheres to this recommendation. In a new article written by researchers from Mayo Clinic, the authors suggest that people are so focused on helping obese children lose weight that they might not realize the potential threat of eating disorders. The researchers also argue that since losing weight is often perceived as positive for overweight and obese people, diagnosing teenagers who used to be obese with eating disorders is a harder task than diagnosing teenagers of normal weight.

"Given research that suggests early intervention promotes best chance of recovery, it is imperative that these children and adolescents' eating disorder symptoms are identified and intervention is offered before the disease progresses," Dr. Leslie Sim, Ph.D. stressed according to Medical Xpress. Sim, the lead author of the study, is an eating disorder expert at the Mayo Clinic Children's Center.

In this report, Sim and her colleagues looked at two eating disorder cases that manifested during the adolescents' quest to lose weight and get out of the obesity range. The researchers discovered that it was more challenging to identify eating disorders in these two cases, which then lead to a later diagnosis. This meant that obese teenagers received treatment for their eating disorders at a much later time, which would increase the risk of developing health complications due to the eating disorder.

Due to this finding, the research team suggests that more needs to be done to address eating disorders in people who were once obese. Since eating disorders have a high relapse rate and can significantly impair one's lifestyle, it is vital to detect it early and treat it effectively. According to the background information provided by the study, at least six percent of children suffer from eating disorders. Over 55 percent of them are females in high school and 30 percent of them are males in high school.

The report was published in Pediatrics.

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