With the pressure exerted by peers in social media eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and purging disorder are becoming increasingly common in today’s world. About 13% of women worldwide suffer from them. Certain subpopulations, such as athletes, are even much more affected. It is important to identify the risk factors that predispose to the onset of these disorders in adulthood in order to better manage them during adolescence, a crucial period when they are often triggered by a variety of causes. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the relationship between weight loss and future eating disorders.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether weight loss, characterized in the experiment as the difference between a person’s previous highest weight in adulthood and his or her current weight, correlates with the future occurrence of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and purging disorder. In fact, the identification of risk factors is essential to try to act before the onset of the disease and to coordinate effective prevention.
Data were collected from 1,165 young women concerned about their body image. This was an initial selection criterion, as the women had already participated in previous clinical trials aimed at preventing such conditions. In this study, they had to answer a questionnaire about their eating habits annually for three years.
The results showed that earlier weight loss increased the risk of developing anorexia nervosa and bulimia. On the other hand, earlier weight loss was not a good predictor of binge eating. However, in this type of experiment, it is difficult to know whether the disorders were preexisting and whether they led to weight loss in the past, or whether they are actually a risk factor for the development of binge eating disorder. As a result, should previous weight loss be considered a risk factor or a diagnostic marker?
The authors conclude, “The results provide new evidence that previous weight loss correlates with the future occurrence of eating disorders characterized by dietary restriction or compensatory weight control behaviors, and suggest that women with significant previous weight change represent an important risk group that should be targeted by prevention programs.”
In the US, there are still too many ineffective weight loss programs and products that are being peddled to vulnerable people. Sadly in most cases, these programs or weight loss products are mostly at best useless but at worst can lead to all kinds of health issues. To treat and prevent these eating disorders, dietary and psychological counseling should be recommended for all people with a poor self-image who want to lose weight. This is done so as to help them lose weight in a way that does not jeopardize their physical and mental health.