Weight suppression ups future onset of eating disorders

27 Oct 2020

Weight suppression appears to result in future onset of eating disorders characterized by dietary restriction or compensatory weight control behaviours, suggesting weight-suppressed women represent an at-risk group that may benefit from selective prevention programmes, a study has found.

“Eating disorders affect 13 percent of females and contribute to functional impairment and mortality,” the investigators said. Few studies, however, have identified risk factors associated with future onset of anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder (BED), and purging disorder (PD).

This study was then conducted to determine whether weight suppression, defined as the difference between a person’s highest past weight at their adult height and their current weight, was associated with future onset of AN, BN, BED, and PD.

The investigators examined data from 1,165 young women with body image concerns (mean age, 21.9 years) who completed annual diagnostic interviews over a 3-year follow-up period. Logistic regression models were used to assess the relationship between baseline weight suppression and onset risk of each eating disorder, controlling for age, dietary restraint, and intervention condition.

Elevated weight suppression was predictive of future onset of AN (odds ratio [OR], 1.36, 95 percent CI, 1.03–1.80), BN (OR, 1.34, 95 percent CI, 1.11–1.62), PD (OR, 1.46, 95 percent CI, 1.23–1.74), and any eating disorder (OR, 1.32, 95 percent CI, 1.12–1.56), but not BED (OR, 1.10, 95 percent CI, 0.89–1.37).

Highest past weight was also associated with future onset of BN and PD but not AN, BED, or any eating disorder. Baseline current weight inversely correlated with future AN onset only, indicating that women with the largest difference between their highest past weight and current weight are at highest risk of eating disorders.

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