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Weight Loss Ups Anorexia, Bulimia Risk in Overweight Teens

Update Date: Sep 09, 2013 12:23 PM EDT
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Losing weight may put obese teens at risk of developing anorexia and bulimia, a new study suggests.

What's more, researchers say that eating disorders among obese teens who lose weight aren't adequately detected because the weight loss is seen as a positive thing by family members.

While formerly overweight adolescents generally have more medical complications from eating disorders, it takes longer to diagnose them than kids who are in a normal weight range. Researchers said that this is problematic because early intervention is key to making a good prognosis.

Experts say that people with a weight history in the overweight or obese range actually represent a substantial portion of adolescents presenting for eating disorder treatment.

"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," lead study author Leslie Sim, Ph.D., an eating disorders expert in the Mayo Clinic Children's Center, said in a news release.

"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," Sim said.

The latest study analyzes two examples of eating disorders that developed as overweight teens were trying to lose weight.  Researchers explained that both disorders illustrate specific challenges in the identification of eating disorder behaviors in adolescents with this weight history.

Researchers found that at least 6 percent of adolescents suffer from eating disorders, and more than 55 percent of high school females and 30 percent of males report disordered eating symptoms like engaging in one or more maladaptive behaviors (fasting, diet pills, vomiting, laxatives, binge eating) to induce weight loss.

Researchers said the latest findings are important because eating disorders are associated with high relapse rates as well as significant impairment to mental and physical health.

The latest findings were published in the journal Pediatrics

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