Risk analysis

Many things contribute to eating disorders. We know that genetics is a big cause. We know that anxiety and mood disorders put you at a higher risk. We know that you are more likely to get sick if you are female or live in a Western culture. And we also know that any form of dieting or malnutrition can cinch the deal.

So. There's that.

But there's also a lot that we don't know. A new study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine called "Family, Peer and Media Predictors of Becoming Eating Disordered"* looks scientifically at some common cultural factors related to binge eating and purging.

What they found was this (according to a press release):

During 7 years of follow-up, 10.3 percent of the girls and 3 percent of the boys started to binge eat or purge at least once a week. Slightly more girls started to purge (5.3 percent) than binge eat (4.3 percent), while binge eating was more common than purging (2.1 percent vs. 0.8 percent) among boys. Only a small proportion of boys and girls engaged in both binge eating and purging.

Although girls under age 14 whose mothers had a history of an eating disorder were almost three times as likely than their peers to start purging at least once a week, "maternal history of an eating disorder was unrelated to risk of starting to binge eat or purge in older adolescent females," the authors write. "Frequent dieting and trying to look like persons in the media were independent predictors of binge eating in females of all ages. In males, negative comments about weight by fathers was predictive of starting to binge at least weekly."

"Our results suggest that prevention of disordered eating and eating disorders may need to be age- and sex-specific. Efforts aimed at females should contain media literacy and other approaches to make young persons less susceptible to the media images they see," the authors conclude. "In addition, programs for females should focus more on becoming more resilient to teasing from males, whereas programs for males should focus on approaches to becoming more resilient to negative comments about weight by fathers."

Or, instead of blaming the fathers, we should encourage ALL parents to teach healthy eating and prevent dieting.

*You'll need a copy of Adobe Acrobat to read the paper in full.

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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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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com



nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote



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