Skip to Content

Fast Weight Gain May Be Safe for Anorexia Patients


For anorexia patients that are hospitalized, fast weight gain may be healthier than experts once thought, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers.

The findings oppose what the American Dietetic Association and the American Psychiatric Association say are proper guidelines when it comes to the stabilization and weight management of anorexia patients.

"We were able to get patients with anorexia to safely gain around 4 pounds a week," said Dr. Graham Redgrave, lead study author and expert in eating disorders at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "That’s twice the national average."

Refeeding syndrome - which happens when severely underweight patients gain weight too quickly - can sometimes cause the body's organs to be compromised, which is why many treatment programs include a slow weight-gain process.

Careful monitoring can work

The study found, however, that with careful monitoring, anorexia patients could reach a normal BMI and a healthy weight - at a faster rate than normally advised.

“So ‘slower is safer’ has been the clinical view," said senior author Angela Guarda, M.D. "But at what price? If a patient is severely ill and needs to gain 50 pounds, but only gains 10 pounds in the hospital, you achieve little other than a temporary improvement. Worse still, recent research actually shows that under traditional protocols, people can lose weight in the hospital.”

The study suggests that refeeding syndrome can be avoided in inpatient settings, where patients are tested daily for healthy levels of phosphate and glucose.

More information about the study is published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Source: News Wise

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/