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Drastic weight loss is a problem even in normal-weight teens

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The dangers of anorexia tend to be associated with being rail thin, but new research suggests that the indication of trouble is drastic weight loss - no matter how much a person may appear to have a "normal" body type.

Melissa Whitelaw, a clinical specialist dietitian at The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, conducted a study on 99 teens between the ages of 12 and 19.

She and her team found that a drastic drop in weight is associated with the same life-threatening risks - whether a patient is extremely skinny or not.

"Emaciated bodies are the typical image portrayed in the media of patients with restricting eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa," Whitelaw said. "This paper highlights that it is not so much about the weight but the weight loss that can lead to a serious eating disorder. The complications of malnutrition can occur at any weight."

EDNOS increasing

Patients who do not meet the criteria for anorexia are often diagnosed with Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). Whitelaw found that 8 percent of her patients had EDNOS in 2005, but that number jumped to 47 percent in 2009, Health Day reports.

"I was surprised to see how much it increased," Whitelaw said. "I was also surprised at how similar they were not only physically but also psychologically. Everything about them was anorexia except that they don't look really skinny.

Side effects in both groups, those with anorexia and those with EDNOS, were similar: low phosphate levels, low pulse, and the need for tube feeding.

"[Normal-weight patients with anorexia symptoms] were becoming medically unstable, despite the fact that they had what you would call a normal body weight," Whitelaw said.

Source: Health Day