Eating disorders are thought to be largely a female problem, but a new study shows that boys are more at risk than is commonly thought.
A study of 16,000 schoolchildren in Taiwan found that kids as young as 10 are experimenting with forcing themselves to vomit in an attempt to lose weight. The behavior is more common in boys than in girls. Younger children were also more likely than older ones to make themselves sick as a weight loss strategy.
Researchers don’t know what’s causing the spike in self-inflicted puking among young boys, but revealing the problem is an important first step towards tackling it.
According to Jezebel:
The researchers found that the children who reported using this technique shared several behaviors. 21% at fried food on a daily basis, 19% had dessert every day, 18% ate late-night snacks, and 18% used computers for more than two hours a day. Both obese and underweight children were more likely than normal weight children to try self-induced vomiting.
The good news is that the researchers think that by focusing on some of these related factors, they can head off some eating disorders before they start. They write:
The findings have prompted researchers to issue a warning that self-induced vomiting is an early sign that children could develop eating disorders and serious psychological problems, such as binge eating and anorexia.
They also believe that self-induced vomiting can be tackled by making sure that children get enough sleep, eat breakfast every day, eat less fried food and night-time snacks and spend less time in front of a computer.
While this study focused on children in Taiwan, similar studies have shown big increases in eating disorders in Australia and the United States as well. As obesity rates rise, so do eating disorders. It’s important to be proactive about identifying and treating these issues.