Obese teenagers who are trying to lose weight may develop eating disorders in the future, say researchers at the Mayo Clinic. The study were announced on September 9, 2013, and the findings were published in the journal “Pediatrics.”
The American Heart Association said in a September 9, 2013, statement that approximately 5 percent of American children and teens are obese.
"Severe obesity in young people has grave health consequences," said Aaron Kelly, Ph.D., lead author of the statement and a researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minnneapolis. "It's a much more serious childhood disease than obesity." Dr. Kelly stated that while childhood obesity rates are starting to level off, severe obesity has increased rates have increased in children and adolescents.
The American Heart Association definition of severe obesity in children over the age of 2 is a body mass index (BMI) score of 35 or higher, or a BMI that is 20 percent or more than the 95th percentile for their age and gender.
The Mayo Clinic research suggests that when obese teens lose weight, they are at risk of developing eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Researchers say that parents and family members often miss the signs of eating disorders because they see the weight loss as positive.
Researchers say that obese adolescents who have lost weight tend to have more medical problems related to eating disorders, and are more difficult to diagnose than children in a normal weight range. “This is problematic because early intervention is the key to a good prognosis,” said Leslie Sim, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an eating disorders expert at the Mayo Clinic Children's Center. “"Given research that suggests early intervention promotes best chance of recovery, it is imperative that these children and adolescents' eating disorder symptoms are identified and intervention is offered before the disease progresses," says Dr. Sim.
The report analyzed two examples of eating disorders that developed while obese teens tried to lose weight. Both examples identified the specific challenges of identifying eating disorders in teens and the resulting delays in accessing treatment.
Statistics and study findings:
- At least 6 percent of adolescents develop eating disorders
- 55 percent of high school female students and 30 percent of males report experiencing the symptoms of eating disorders and exhibit behaviors such as diet pills, fasting, vomiting binge eating and laxatives to loss weight
- Patients with eating disorders have high relapse rates
- Patients experience significant impairments in their daily lives, and many medical side effects that are potentially life-threatening.