Eating disorders overlooked in obese teens
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in adolescents within the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But a surprising new report indicates that the risk for these teens developing eating disorders can easily be overlooked.
The article, published online in September in the journal Pediatrics, finds that eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are harder to detect in teens since family members see the weight loss as positive.
Researchers also argue that this group tends to have more medical complications as a result of eating disorders, and it takes longer to diagnose these adolescents than those in a normal weight range.
The article explored two examples of eating disorders that developed while obese teens were losing weight. In both cases, although each teen received regular medical check-ups and showed obvious signs of malnutrition, eating disorders weren’t identified and subsequently worsened.
“Eating disorders are associated with high relapse rates and significant impairment to daily life, along with a host of medical side effects that can be life-threatening,” explained Leslie Sim, lead author of the study, in a statement.
Although not widely known, individuals who have a history of being in the overweight or obese range represent a large portion of teens presenting for eating disorder treatment, said Sim, an eating disorders expert in the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minn.
According to the report, 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 eating disorder symptoms and behavior, including engaging in fasting, diet pills, vomiting, laxatives and binge eating to lose weight.
“Given research that suggests early intervention promotes the 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,” said Sim.
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