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Eating Disorders: Cause Unknown

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Eating Disorders: Cause Unknown

December 15, 2008

As many as 10 million women and 1 million men suffer from eating disorders including anorexia nervosa (in which victims eat too little and become painfully thin) and bulimia (binge eating followed by purging via self-induced vomiting or laxatives), according to studies cited by the nonprofit National Eating Disorders Association. The studies are the most recent estimates as of February 2010. Millions more suffer from binge eating disorder. An emerging problem is diabulimia, in which diabetics skip or alter their insulin doses for weight control, though it is not officially recognized as a medical condition. About 30 to 40 percent of teenage diabetic girls manipulate insulin doses to stay thinner, according to the American Diabetes Association. Eating disorders often develop during the teen years, but can start as early as kindergarten or well into adulthood. They often are accompanied by anxiety disorders, a distorted body-image, substance abuse, and depression. Psychological therapy is considered an important element in treatment, but a number of clinical trials are under way to test the efficacy of drug treatment, assess brain and other physiological responses to food, and assess whether hormonal and other abnormalities (such as abnormally low dopamine) might contribute to the condition or help cure it. Updated February 2010

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