Eating Disorders in Children Tied to Serious Health Consequences

Early-onset restrictive eating disorders result in growth delay, unstable vital signs in children

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of early-onset restrictive eating disorders is 2.6 cases per 100,000 person-years in children, is increased in girls, and can result in serious medical consequences, according to a study published in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Leora Pinhas, M.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues investigated the incidence and age-specific presentation of early-onset restrictive eating disorders among 5-to-12-year-old children. During a two-year period, 2,453 Canadian pediatricians were surveyed monthly to identify cases. Clinical presentations and characteristics of eating disorders in the study population were described, and the incidence of restrictive eating disorders was assessed.

The investigators found that the incidence of early-onset restrictive eating disorders was 2.6 cases per 100,000 person-years, with a 6:1 ratio for girls to boys. Delayed growth was seen in 47.1 percent of girls and 54.5 percent of boys, and 46 percent of children had a body mass index below the 10th percentile. Of the children with eating disorders, 34.2 percent had unstable vital signs and 47.2 percent needed to be hospitalized. The criteria for anorexia nervosa were met by 62.1 percent of the children, and they were more likely to be medically compromised; however, some children not meeting the criteria were found to be equally medically unstable.

"These eating disturbances can result in serious medical consequences, ranging from growth delay to unstable vital signs, which can occur in the absence of weight loss or other restrictive eating disorder symptoms," the authors write.

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