Skip to Content

Risk of Developing an Eating Disorder may be Determined by Examining Children's Eating Patterns


A new study by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital has identified a means by which doctors may be able to determine which children will stand a greater likelihood of developing a serious eating disorder as they grow older.

Girls followed for 11 years

The researchers who work out of the Divisions of Adolescent Medicine and Behavioral Medicine followed 800 girls from 1988 to 1999. The young participants in the study were 9 years old at the beginning of the study, and were monitored through adolescence and into early adulthood in order to analyze their consumption of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. The researchers also noted any symptoms associated with eating disorders such as unusual eating rituals, poor body image, and an obsession with being thin.

Eating patterns and behaviors determine those at risk of developing eating disorders

The age of the girls had an impact on the results of the study. While some girls as young as 9 years of age were shown to modify their patterns of food consumption, the researchers discovered that by 11 years of age, the percentage of fat and carbohydrates consumed appeared to bring about dissatisfaction with body image when the girls reached 14 years of age. In other words, the study was able to provide some guidelines regarding the age at which the young girls became most vulnerable to feeling unhappy over their weight and appearance.

In addition to this, 15 year old girls in the study who consumed a high percentage of carbohydrates but a low percentage of fat frequently adopted unusual ways of eating by the time they reached 19 years of age such as skipping breakfast and/or lunch. Girls who showed tendencies of being "perfectionists" were even more likely to demonstrate this behavior.

Prevention is vital according to researchers

The researchers note that prevention is key when it comes to managing eating disorders which can be especially difficult to treat. It is hoped that this long-term study will shed new light on some of the contributing factors and give doctors and parents some tools to identify young girls who may be at risk for later developing an eating disorder.

Source: Medical News Today

Photo by John Nyboer