According to a new study conducted by researchers in the Divisions of Adolescent Medicine and Behavioral Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s hospital, doctors might be able to foresee which young girls have a chance of developing eating disorders later in life – simply from the food they eat when they are younger.
The authors followed 800 girls’ eating behaviors between 1988 and 1999, starting when they were 9 years old, with the goal of determining if what they chose to eat gave them a greater risk of having an eating disorder when they were older.
The study analyzed the girls’ fat, protein, and carbohydrate consumption and compared it to the common symptoms of eating disorders; unusual ways of eating, poor attitudes toward their own bodies, and obsession over being “skinny.”
The researchers found that the outcomes were different according to how old the girls were. Girls around 11 years old had carbohydrate and fat consumption percentages which seemed to lead to unhappiness with their bodies around the time they turned 14.
On the other hand, girls around 15 years old who had high carbohydrate consumption percentages, but low amount of fat consumption percentages were found to have unusual ways of eating by the time they turned 19. The rearchers note that this was even more prevalent in girls who were more “perfectionists”.
Abbigail Tissot, PhD, associate director of the Division of Behavioral Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and lead researcher commented:
“We know that perfectionists are at high risk for eating disorders. They are so committed to perfectly conforming to an unhealthy and extreme idea of beauty, that they get carried away. Unfortunately, these girls who are committed to achieving thinness – no matter what it takes – are actually placing themselves at higher risk for being overweight or obese later in life.”
Laurie Dunham, registered dietician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital said: “Eating disorders are notoriously difficult to treat, so prevention is critical. By assessing protein and fat consumption as early as 9, we can detect which girls may go on to develop eating disorders and step in to help before things get out of control.” Tissot adds: “The study is rare in that it’s based on long-term observation of girls during their transition from pre-puberty through adolescence and into early adulthood. This study tells us at what age we should be watching for these eating behaviors, giving parents and physicians useful tools for detecting girls at risk for future eating disorder symptoms.”
She commented on a second study, which was based on the same data and showed that the girls who didnt have lunch ended up eating more calories every day than the ones who didn’t chose to skip the meal.
“Plenty of studies have been done on the effects of skipping breakfast. But at a time when kids’ school lunch periods can vary widely, few studies have looked at the impact of skipping lunch.”, concludes Tissot.
Written By Christine Kearney