Expected Body Weight's Role in Eating Disorder Treatment Studied

BMI percentile best for determining expected body weight for adolescents with eating disorders

THURSDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A commonly agreed upon way to determine expected body weight (EBW) for adolescents with eating disorders, such as the body mass index (BMI) percentile, is a critical component of the diagnosis and management of these disorders, according to a study published online Jan. 4 in Pediatrics.

Daniel Le Grange, PhD, of The University of Chicago, and colleagues evaluated the level of agreement between three methods commonly used to calculate EBW for adolescents with eating disorders, namely BMI percentile, the McLaren method, and the Moore method. A total of 373 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or other unspecified eating disorder participated in the analysis.

The researchers found that, for all but the tallest and shortest participants and those older than 16 years of age, the three methods provided moderate agreement for clinically significant cut points for EBW, including hospitalization (75 percent EBW), diagnosis of anorexia nervosa (85 percent EBW), and healthy weight (100 percent EBW). However, the McLaren and Moore methods were associated with a number of limitations.

"If clinicians are uncertain about the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, they should consider the trade-offs of making a false-positive versus a false-negative diagnosis when choosing one method over another. However, in the interest of advancing a shared language among clinicians and researchers, we suggest that the BMI method be used as it may pose the fewest obstacles (ease of calculation) or exceptions (height and age)," the authors write.

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