Posted by on July 11, 2012 - 10:31am

In a study recently published by the International Journal of Eating Disorders, women in their early 50’s (midlife) show more symptoms of disordered eating and concerns over their weight and shape than women in their late adulthood (mid 50’s and over).  The concerns are comparable to those expressed only in young women.

Hoping to better understand the weight and shape concerns of women over the age of 50, researchers gathered data from this population through an online survey.  Clinical studies have shown an occurrence of late-onset eating disorders and an increase in inpatient admissions for women over the age 35.  Reports show that there are three ways the disorders appear: a chronic presentation of an earlier-onset eating disorder that the patient never fully recovered from, a relapse of a disorder that the patient has previously experienced, or the late-onset of a disorder without having previously experienced it.

According to separate population-based studies, while the majority of women with eating disorders over 40 did not present with late-onset eating disorders, 69% of the cases studied in women over 50 concluded that the disorder was late-onset.  So at this age, many women are dealing with a new disorder that may negatively impact their lives.

Studies have found that body dissatisfaction remains somewhat stable throughout the lifetime, with surges among younger women and midlife women.  Higher incidence of reported body dissatisfaction occurs among midlife women with a higher BMI.  Physiologically, the BMI of a woman typically
increases during midlife, levels off and then decreases around the age of 60 (among other bodily changes).  Interestingly, areas of dissatisfaction in younger women seem to remain the same into adulthood even with a changing body and changing fat distribution.

The study (published by the International Journal of Eating Disorders) found that 71.2% of women were attempting to lose weight at the time of the survey with 35.6% spending at least half of their time dieting in the last five years.  Overall, 41.2% checked their body size/shape at least daily and 40% weighed themselves at least a couple of times per week.  Vomiting (1.2%), laxatives (2.2%), diuretics (2.5%), diet pills (7.5%) and excessive exercise (6.8%) were the behaviors women reportedly used to control their weight within the last five years.

61.8% said their concerns occasionally or often negatively affected their lives and 79.1% said their weight/shape had either a moderate or even the most important role in how they perceive themselves.  63.9% reported thoughts about their weight daily or more.  Most women had no history of eating disorders (59%); however, 13.3% of those sampled said they currently showed eating disorder symptoms while 27.7% had in the past.

The researchers concluded that younger midlife women showed more disordered eating/weight concerns. A possible explanation in the discrepancy of rates of disorders and concerns among younger midlife women relative to late adulthood is the cohort effect, in which these midlife women may have been exposed to different, and perhaps a greater amount of, socio-cultural pressures than those in later adulthood.  Another explanation may be that body health and function becomes more important than physical appearance in late adulthood.  Also, midlife women may be experiencing symptoms of menopause that prompts an increase in fat and how it is distributed, compounded by a decreased metabolism that may put them at risk for disorders.


Posted by on April 12, 2011 - 9:02am

About 3 percent of U.S. adolescents are affected by an eating disorder, but most do not receive treatment for their specific eating condition, according to an  National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded study published online ahead of print March 7, 2011, in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement , a nationally representative, face-to-face survey of more than 10,000 teens ages 13 to 18. Previously published results found that about 20 percent of youth are affected by a severe mental disorder, and a substantial proportion of these youth do not receive mental health care. In this new study, the authors tracked the prevalence of eating disorders and the proportion of those youth who received treatment for these disorders.

According to the data, 0.3 percent of youth have been affected by anorexia (fear of getting fat that causes you not to eat), 0.9 percent by bulimia (bouts of overeating followed by purging), and 1.6 percent by binge-eating disorder(out of control eating). The researchers also tracked the rate of some forms of eating disorders not otherwise specified (ED-NOS), a catch-all category of symptoms that do not meet full criteria for specific disorders but still impact a person’s life. ED-NOS is the most common eating disorder diagnosis. Overall, another 0.8 percent had subthreshold anorexia, and another 2.5 percent had symptoms of subthreshold binge-eating disorder.

In addition, Hispanics reported the highest rates of bulimia, while Whites reported the highest rates of anorexia.   The majority who had an eating disorder also met criteria for at least one other psychiatric disorder such as depression. Each eating disorder was associated with higher levels of suicidal thinking compared to those without an eating disorder.

The prevalence of these disorders and their association with coexisting disorders, role impairment, and suicidal thinking suggest that eating disorders represent a major public health concern. In addition, the significant rates of subthreshold eating conditions support the notion that eating disorders tend to exist along a spectrum and may be better recognized by doctors if they included a broader range of symptoms. In addition, the findings clearly underscore the need for better access to treatment specifically for eating disorders.

Posted by on May 19, 2010 - 8:00am

You may have seen the cover article on our Spring Newsletter titled “Spotlight on Obesity: Is it just your weight?”  This article focuses not only on the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. but also on the serious health conditions that may result from obesity.  Although obesity is on the rise, however, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia still continue to be a problem, especially in women.  According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (2003) 90 percent of individuals with eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25.  Eating disorders are closely correlated with depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders, so it is important to diagnose and treat early.

The most common disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating.  You may already be familiar with these disorders, but they are listed below along with some the complications that may arise.

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder categorized by obsession with weight and food causing individuals to starve themselves or to exercise excessively in order to maintain a weight typically far below the normal weight range for their height and age.  Complications of anorexia include, heart problems, anemia, permanent bone loss, malnourishment, absent menstruation and death.

Bulimia nervosa is categorized by periods of binge eating followed by vomiting or excessive exercise to get rid of extra calories or weight.  Individuals with bulimia are similarly obsessed with weight and food.  Both disorders are closely tied to self-image and thus may be difficult to treat.  Complications of bulimia include heart problems, digestive problems, tooth decay, absent menstruation and death.

Binge-eating disorder is still not considered a psychiatric condition, but may be treated similarly to bulimia and anorexia.  Binge-eaters tend to consume unusually large amounts of food on a consistent basis.  This disorder may lead to obesity and complications associate with obesity such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.  In addition binge-eating disorder can cause psychological problems such as depression and suicidal thoughts.

Although the term eating disorder usually means one of the three disorders listed above, the term disordered eating is used to describe a variety of eating abnormalities that do not necessarily fall into, or are not severe enough to be categorized as one of the typical eating disorders.  Disordered eating may not be as serious in terms of complications, but it may lead to more serious eating disorders if left untreated or unaddressed.  According to a survey conducted by Self Magazine and the University of North Carolina, as many as 65% of American women between 25 and 45 exhibit disordered eating behaviors.  Women should not be afraid to seek help for issues they may have with eating, even if they do not think it is a severe eating disorder.  As peers, we should be supportive of women who are suffering from these diseases, and help them to overcome their issues.