Being Anorexic doesn’t necessarily mean being underweight

When most people hear or think of the condition Anorexia, it’s arguable that thoughts of excessive thinness come to mind.

According to a study conducted by the University of Melbourne, however, re-published by Eurekalert, many individuals who are hospitalized as a result of Anorexia fail to fit into the underweight category, and are instead often within or above the healthy weight range.

Alterations to Anorexia Nervosa’s “diagnostic criteria” require revision, said an Australian Dietitian, Melissa Whitelaw, in the Eurekalert release.

Whitelaw’s study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, examined 171 patients, suffering from Anorexia, between the ages of 12 and 19, who had been admitted to the Royal Children’s Hospital’s eating disorder program in Melbourne, Australia between 2005-2013. Her examination allowed her to discover that:

  • “51 of the patients were “atypical” with significant eating disorder psychopathology, but not underweight
  • Rather than being underweight, greater weight loss was associated with life threateningly low pulse rates, a complication of starvation in anorexia nervosa that requires admission
  • Those with atypical anorexia nervosa also suffered low blood pressure and deranged blood electrolytes
  • Importantly, no complication was independently associated with underweight, the hallmark of anorexia
  • No participant in the study was being monitored by a health professional for weight loss, their relationship with food, or their methods of losing weight.”

Medical professionals are being asked to pay attention to adolescents who have lost weight as 31 per cent of patients with Anorexia “had all the cognitive features and physical complications of the disease without being underweight,” the release says.

When I was treated for Anorexia at McMaster Hospital in their eating disorder recovery program, I was extremely underweight. However, the physician informed me that my extremely low blood pressure and heart rate were the most concerning. I had to have several heart tests done, and I had to wear a heart monitor for a two-week period to monitor my pulse.

The body enters starvation mode when 10 per cent, or a quarter of body weight is lost quickly, the release states.

If you suspect someone you know or love is suffering from an eating disorder, visit the National Eating Disorder website, or consult a professional.





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