Smorgasboard: Research Week in Review

Well, goodness. I don't know if the research part of this weeks' smorgasbord will be as interesting or controversial, especially since I don't think people like Daniel LeGrange will come along and post (though, Dr. LeGrange, you would be most welcome). Still, research on eating disorders tends to pique my interest much more than basic news stories.

This week brings several interesting little bits of research, all of which are somewhat related. They have to do with diagnosing eating disorders in adolescents (again, the focus is on anorexia, which I think is doing our young people a HUGE disservice).

Staging anorexia nervosa: conceptualizing illness severity This little gem comes by way of the parent forum Around the Dinner Table (thanks Carolin!). What this research does is try to develop a scale to determine severity of anorexia nervosa. Don't we have that scale, you ask? Most ratings of illness severity have to do with weight. This isn't to say that weight isn't important, but there are plenty of other factors: duration of illness, co-morbid conditions, etc. This is also the start of trying to determine prognosis for a person diagnosed with anorexia. Well worth the read- the pdf is free for download.

Models as a High Risk Group: The Health Implications of a Size Zero Culture. This is an editorial by Janet Treasure of the Maudsley Trust (yes, THE Maudsley, as in the hospital in London) about, well, the health implications of a size zero culture. I didn't read the full text of the editorial, which appears in the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry, but there were two really good general news articles on it. They deal with the diet-binge-diet One says that "Bingeing on junk after diet addictive." In the article, in a supremely British way, Dr. Treasure says:

"There's a tendency to break the diet when you see these highly palatable foods. That sets it up so you get into a cycle of intermittent naughtiness," she says in an editorial published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"It gets you into a momentum, hooked on that sort of cycle."

This editorial really begs the question: is the abundance of "junk" food in society a result of the dieting that has become so prevalent? Usually, we think that dieting is the response to the "junk" food, but Treasure's writing seems to suggest the opposite.

More of the biological aspects of eating disorders are looked at in an article on the BBC called "Is Size 0 Really to Blame?" One of the really interesting parts is where another leading researcher compares personality traits of people with anorexia to those with autism.

Prognosis of adolescent partial syndromes of eating disorders. This article essentially re-iterates why early intervention, treatment, and restoration of normal weight and eating behaviors is crucial- even if someone doesn't meet the "exact" criteria for anorexia or bulimia. Researchers had this to say as they followed a community sample for a decade:
There were few instances of progression of partial syndromes to fully fledged anorexia and bulimia nervosa. However, among those with partial syndromes depressive and anxiety symptoms were two to three times higher in young adulthood, substance misuse was common, and a majority of those with a partial syndrome of anorexia nervosa were still underweight in their mid-20s.

Not only does this warrant more aggressive treatment, but it also shows that the current DSM criteria for diagnosing eating disorders in young people is inadequate. There really needs to be less guesswork and more specific diagnostic tests. Period.

And now it really is back to your regular programming.

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Anonymous said...

I love these research wrap-ups Carrie.

carrie said...

Why thank you Jane.

I can be paid in reminders about Neuticles and feline appetite stimulants (which I suspect is really marijuana marketed for cats. I mean, isn't that what works for humans?).

It's just nice to find other people who think PubMed is recreational reading. :)

marcella said...

PubMed and others aren't just recreational, they're dangerously addictive. Thanks for this Carrie

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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