Anorexia nervosa is a very serious condition which can result in premature death. Mayo Clinic writes that anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which causes people to obsess about their weight and about the food they eat. People who suffer from anorexia nervosa attempt to maintain a weight that's signficantly below normal for their age and height. Science Daily reported on Sept. 20, 2013, "Higher Calorie Diets Increase Weight Gain, Shorten Hospital Stays for Teens With Anorexia."
According to a study by researchers at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, higher calorie diets produce twice the rate of weight gain in comparison to the lower calorie diets which are currently recommended for adolescents hospitalized with anorexia nervosa. These findings have been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. This study challenges the present conservative approach to feeding adolescents suffering from anorexia nervosa during hospitalization for malnutrition.
At the present time the American Psychiatric Association, American Dietetic Association and others recommend beginning with approximately 1,200 calories per day and advancing slowly by 200 calories every other day. This "start low and go slow" approach is said to help avoid refeeding syndrome, which is a potentially fatal condition resulting from rapid electrolyte shifts. This is a well-known risk when starting nutrition therapy in a patient who is starving.
Garber and her colleagues published a study in 2011 which was the first to show that adolescents on these lower-calorie diets had poor outcomes, including initial weight loss which was followed by poor weight gain and long hospital stays. Garber said, "That study showed that the lower-calorie diets were contributing to the so-called 'underfeeding syndrome' and are just too conservative for most of the adolescents that we hospitalize."
The higher calorie approach has now been found to dramatically increase the rate of weight gain and shorten hospital stays. These findings offer support to the move towards more aggressive refeeding with anorexia nervosa. Garber is optimistic that this higher calorie approach to treating anorexia helps young people get better quickly and return to their real lives.