Eating disorders in children and adolescents


Eating disorders are not “a phase”, a phase that will pass, but a serious medical problem that can have long-term health consequences if left untreated. As the onset typically occurs during pre-adolescence or adolescence (most begin with either accidental or purposeful weight loss that can lead to unhealthy measures to sustain the loss), and given the serious complications that may result from them, it is very important to identify its warning signs in our children (keeping in mind that people with eating disorders often hides their unhealthy behaviors), and treat them as soon as possible.

The data around adolescent eating disorders are alarming. Some of them are presented below:

  • There has been a progressive increase in incidence of anorexia in girls aged 15 to 19 in each decade since 1930.
  • 95% of cases with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
  • From 40% to 60% of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight, or shape, or about becoming overweight; 81% aged 10 are afraid of being fat.
  • More than half of teenage girls and nearly a third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors (skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives); overweight girls are more likely than normal weight girls to engage in such extreme dieting, but even among clearly non-overweight girls, over a third report dieting.
  • The average Body Mass Index of Miss America winners has decreased from 22 in the 1920s to 16.9 in the 2000s (a normal BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9).
  • 69% of American elementary school girls who read magazines say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape, and 47% that the pictures make them want to lose weight.

As we have already said, the earlier a person with an eating disorder receives treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery. And it is good to know that in children and adolescents with eating disorders, it has been reported that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (EPA + DHA) in addition to standard treatment could favour an increase in the percent ideal body weight (current weight/ideal weight x 100).




Anorexia nervosa and omega-3 fatty acids

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. Persons with this disorder lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height. It often begins during the pre-teen or teen[...]