Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Eating Disorders In Children: Watch Out For Bad Advice From Web Sites, Pre-teen Weight Loss

Date:
December 4, 2006
Source:
Stanford University Medical Center
Summary:
Parenting a child with an eating disorder - monitoring meals, friends and activities - can be a full-time job. But two new studies from researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital indicate a need for increased vigilance in two key areas: Internet use among adolescents with the condition, and pre-teen weight loss in seemingly healthy children.

Parenting a child with an eating disorder - monitoring meals, friends and activities - can be a full-time job. But two new studies from researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital indicate a need for increased vigilance in two key areas: Internet use among adolescents with the condition, and pre-teen weight loss in seemingly healthy children.

Related Articles


One study, to be published in the December issue of Pediatrics, is the first to confirm that pro-eating disorder Web sites may promote dangerous behaviors in adolescents with eating disorders. The second, which appears in the December issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, indicates that pre-teens with eating disorders tend to lose weight more quickly than adolescents with the condition and weigh comparatively less at diagnosis. Packard Children's adolescent medicine and eating disorder specialist Rebecka Peebles, MD, and Jenny Wilson, a Stanford medical student, collaborated on both studies.

"If parents wouldn't let their kids go out to dinner or talk on the phone with someone they don't know, they should ask themselves what their child might be up to on the computer," Peebles, a medical school pediatrics instructor, said of the findings in the first study. She pointed out that, unlike adults, teens make few distinctions between "real" friends and people they know only online.

In this study, Peebles and Wilson surveyed families of patients who were diagnosed at Packard Children's with an eating disorder between 1997 and 2004. Seventy-six patients, who were between the ages of 10 and 22 at diagnosis, and 106 parents returned an anonymous survey asking about Internet use - including parental restrictions on it - and health outcomes.

About half of the patients surveyed said they had visited Web sites about eating disorders. Ninety-six percent of teens who visited pro-eating disorder Web sites reported learning new dieting and purging techniques. The researchers also found that pro-eating disorder site visitors tended to have a longer duration of disease, spent less time on schoolwork and spent significantly more time online each week than did those who never visited the sites.

Even those sites ostensibly dedicated to helping people recover from eating disorders (pro-recovery sites) aren't harmless. Nearly 50 percent of patients visiting such sites reported learning about new methods to lose weight or to purge.

"Parents and physicians need to realize that the Internet is essentially an unmonitored media forum," said Peebles. "It's just not possible to completely control the content of an interactive site."

While about 50 percent of parents were aware of the existence of pro-eating disorder sites, only 28 percent had discussed these sites with their child. Fewer still, only about 20 percent, reported placing limits on either the time their child spent online or on the sites they visited.

Parents aren't the only ones who may not recognize trouble brewing. Peebles and Wilson found in their second study that younger eating disorder patients may be at risk for more rapid weight loss than adolescents and frequently have atypical presentations that may make diagnosis more difficult.

"We were very surprised and concerned to find that younger patients lost weight significantly faster than adolescent patients," said Peebles, who pointed out that growth before puberty is critical to future development. "Children should be growing rapidly during pre-adolescence. But these kids had not only stopped gaining, they'd even lost weight."

Adult-specific diagnostic criteria for such eating disorders as anorexia and bulimia muddy the issue, said Peebles, by referring to missed menses and ideal body weight percentages, neither of which are applicable to prepubescent girls who may have already stunted their height by denying themselves needed calories.

"They may not be less than 85 percent of their ideal body weight according to a standard growth chart," she said, "but it's very possible that, without their eating disorder, they would have been significantly taller and heavier." It's also sometimes difficult to tell whether young children display the same kind of disordered body image disturbance as older children with eating disorders, who often proclaim themselves "fat" or "disgusting."

"Young kids may truly not know why they don't want to eat," said Peebles. "They just don't want to be bigger." As a result, more than 60 percent of patients younger than 13 are diagnosed with an "Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified," or EDNOS.

Other surprises of the research include the facts that younger patients were more likely to be male than those older than 13, and that one in five patients younger than 13 had experimented with vomiting as a weight-loss technique.

"Pediatricians and parents shouldn't think of weight loss, or even lack of weight gain in a pre-teen, as a phase," cautioned Peebles. "If a child expresses wanting to lose weight, take it seriously."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Stanford University Medical Center. "Eating Disorders In Children: Watch Out For Bad Advice From Web Sites, Pre-teen Weight Loss." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061204081925.htm>.
Stanford University Medical Center. (2006, December 4). Eating Disorders In Children: Watch Out For Bad Advice From Web Sites, Pre-teen Weight Loss. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061204081925.htm
Stanford University Medical Center. "Eating Disorders In Children: Watch Out For Bad Advice From Web Sites, Pre-teen Weight Loss." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061204081925.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins