Eating Disorders (from nutritional disease)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are serious health problems reflecting an undue concern with body weight. Girls and young women are most vulnerable to the pressures of society to be thin, although boys and men can also fall prey to these disorders, which have lifelong consequences and can even be fatal. The incidence of eating disorders has risen during the last 50 years, particularly in the United States and western Europe.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by low body weight, propensity for drastic undereating, intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat (despite being underweight), and a distorted body image. Consequences include impaired immunity, anemia, and diminished digestive function. Without intervention, a state of semi-starvation similar to marasmus may occur, requiring hospitalization and even force-feeding to prevent death. Treatment usually requires a coordinated approach, with the participation of a physician, psychiatrist, dietitian, and possibly other health professionals.

Bulimia nervosa is thought to be more prevalent than anorexia nervosa, and both disorders may even occur in the same person. In bulimia nervosa recurrent episodes of “binge eating” are followed by a form of purging, such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, or the use of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. Treatment usually involves a structured eating plan.

Young athletes often restrict energy intakes to meet weight guidelines and body-image expectations of their sport. Females are most affected, but male athletes, such as gymnasts, wrestlers, boxers, and jockeys, are also vulnerable. Intense training among young female athletes, coupled with food energy restriction, often results in amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation) and bone loss similar to that at menopause. Calcium supplementation may be required.

nutritional disease. (2008). Encyclop?dia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclop?dia Britannica.


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