Eating Disorders on the Rise Among Children and Adolescents

Filed under: Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

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Plus size models are becoming more popular on the runway. Credit: William West, AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps the media doesn't exactly dictate reality, after all.

The days of heroin chic and waif thin supermodels may be coming to an end, but, to the contrary, the number of children and adolescents being diagnosed with eating disorders continues to rise, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Up to 2 percent of adolescent girls suffer from bulimia nervosa and 0.5 percent have anorexia nervosa. And, experts are noticing, the number of boys suffering from eating disorders is quickly on the rise, as well.

Roughly 10 percent of all recognized cases are now in males, according to a report in Pediatrics, and eating disorders are becoming more common in minority communities.

Most concerning, the amount of young children with eating disorders has drastically spiked. Between 1999 and 2006, the number of children younger than 12 who were hospitalized for eating disorders increased by 119 percent, the report states.

And the problem may be bigger than we realize. Many kids don't meet the strict criteria for eating disorders established by the American Psychiatric Association, yet suffer the same psychical and psychological consequences as those who do.

So, what does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend to prevent eating disorders among children?

Pediatricians need to be on the lookout for these disorders and should screen for them in annual checkups and in health exams required for participation on athletic teams.

Also, doctors should manage or refer children who are diagnosed with an eating disorder, since medical complications from them can be serious or even life threatening. Proper care should include medical care, mental health treatment and nutritional intervention, the authors recommend.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.