You could be at risk of an eating disorder like anorexia even though you appear to look in great shape, according to a new study. The study's findings were originally published in the journal Pediatrics.
Experts say one has to be below 85 per cent of their ideal body weight to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Overdoing exercise, limiting food intake, fear of gaining weight, and having a distorted body image are characteristics of the disorder.
However, a new category of an eating disorder, known as atypical anorexia nervosa, was formally recognised in 2013. People suffering from this disorder exhibit all the characteristics of anorexia even though they have normal body weight.
"This group of patients is underrecognized and undertreated," the study's senior author, Neville Golden, MD, professor of paediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine, told a news portal. Adding,"Our study showed that they can be just as sick medically and psychologically as anorexia nervosa patients who are underweight."
Researchers believe medical and psychological problems are the best ways to predict if a patient may develop atypical anorexia. Very low heart rate and blood pressure levels and electrolyte imbalances are also warning signs of atypical anorexia, according to the study.
"The bigger context is that, over the past 30 years, the prevalence of adolescent obesity has quadrupled, and teens are being told to lose weight without being given tools to do so in a healthy way," Golden told a news portal.
Often teens who are obese may lose weight in unhealthy ways by limitings how much they eat and working out more than they should. They may develop an eating disorder without realising it during their weight loss journey. "By the time they get to see us, they've lost a tremendous amount of weight, their vital signs are unstable and they need to be hospitalised," Golden told a news portal.
For the study, statistical modelling was used to help better understand the factors that can help indicate illness severity. They discovered the amount and speed of weight loss helped diagnose a patient with the condition. "If a patient was obese, the goal is not to have them regain all the lost weight," Golden told a news portal. Adding, "If someone gains a bit of weight, regains menses, and is doing well socially, emotionally and cognitively, that might indicate that they are in a place of recovery."
Another study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry,warns a history of an eating disorder could increase the risk of depression. "We found that women who have had an eating disorder at any point before childbirth, even if it was years earlier in adolescence, were more likely to experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy and up to 18 years after the birth of their child," the study's lead author Dr Francesca Solmi from the University College London told a news portal. Adding, "This finding suggests that many people with eating disorders might not fully recover since we know that eating disorders and depression often happen at the same time."
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