Eating Disorder Research Update

eating disorders
Be sure to understand when eating disorder risk factors become predictive. (photo credit:BigStockPhoto.com)

Research teams across the country and around the world are constantly pursuing research projects designed to help better understand eating disorders including the root cause, who is most at risk, and what treatments are the most beneficial.  For families affected by an eating disorder, keeping on top of this research is important as it can improve their understanding of a specific disorder and guide them in providing the support and assistance required to restore a person with an eating disorder to good health.  To help, here is an overview of one of the research initiatives published thus far in 2014.

Understanding When Eating Disorder Risk Factors Become Predictive

The factors that can increase the risk for developing an eating disorder are well known thanks to previous research initiatives but when those risk factors emerge and at what point they can be used to predict eating disorder development is less clear.  The goal of this study was to better understand how to use what we know about risk factors to do a better job predicting future disorder development.   The data used in the study was collected from a participant pool of almost 500 females who completed an annual survey for the 8 years spanning from pre-adolescence to young adulthood.   The survey tracked potential risk factor and eating disorder diagnosis information.

The results show that risk factors generally emerge in early adolescence and three of the risk factors emerging in the early teen years seemed to correlate to an increased risk of eating disorder development in the later teen years and in early adulthood.  These three factors are perceived pressure to be thin, internalizing thin as the ideal body type, and body dissatisfaction.  Of those three, increased body dissatisfaction in girls ages 13 to 16 was predictive of an eating disorder diagnosis within 4 years.  The other two factors only seemed to be predictive when seen in girls who were 14.  This indicates that prevention programs need to begin in early adolescence, these programs need to target girls dealing with increased body dissatisfaction, and that prevention efforts focused on 14 year old girls will be the most effective.

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