Obese kids may be at higher risk for eating disorders

Undiagnosed eating disorders in kids

By Melanie Lawson - The Morning Show anchor
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mayo Clinic researchers found children and adolescents who were once overweight or obese might be at a higher risk for developing eating disorders, bulimia, anorexia, and binge-eating. Dr. Leslie Heinberg, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, wasn't part of the study but explains how this unhealthy mindset can develop at such a young age.

"Oftentimes the weight loss is reinforced by their pediatrician, even if it's occurring in the context of lots of really eating disordered behavior, really unhealthy behaviors, it takes quite some time for the medical professionals to catch on, says Heinberg."

Mayo Clinic researchers looked at case studies of children and teenagers who came into the emergency room.  They found those who were once overweight or obese represented a large portion of kids being treated for eating disorders.

Researchers say early intervention promotes the best chance of recovery, so they want doctors to look for the early signs. They say eating disorders should be on a doctor's radar, regardless of the patient's weight.

"Depending on the age of a child, oftentimes weight loss is not the goal. Kids have the advantage that they're growing.  So, when you look at kids who are pre-pubertal or are early in puberty, the goal for an overweight kid is often just to maintain that weight and grow into it, says Heinberg."

Heinberg also says parents should work together with their pediatrician to set healthy goals for their child. You can find the complete study in the journal Pediatrics.

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