The hidden class of teens at risk of an eating disorder
PARENTS and health professionals are being urged to closely monitor teenagers trying to lose weight, after a study found they could become seriously ill from an eating disorder while being overweight or in the healthy weight range.
An analysis of Royal Children's Hospital records over nine years by the University of Melbourne, found that half of adolescents admitted to the eating disorder program with anorexia nervosa were "atypical"; suffering the same life threatening physical symptoms but were not overweight.
The study of 171 patients aged 12-19 years found that 17 per cent were obese before they started losing weight. None of them were being monitored for their weight loss by a health professional.
Study author and dietitian Melissa Whitelaw said the findings had helped redefine the definition of the eating disorder, as losing just 10 per cent of their weight quickly sent the body into survival mode triggering dangerously low heart rates and abnormal blood electrolytes.
"Obesity is such a big thing now, so that when kids lose weight they're not necessarily getting to the stage of being super underweight," Ms Whitelaw said.
"People are terrified of helping adolescents lose weight, fearing that we're going to create eating disorders.
Paediatrics is great opportunity to help kids who are worried about their weight, and potentially turn it around before they become an adult, but this shows it's important to keep a close eye on these kids."
The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
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