Researchers Looking Into How and Why Eating Disorders Occur
Eating is controlled by many factors, including appetite, food availability, family, peer, and cultural practices, and attempts at voluntary control.
Dieting to a body weight leaner than needed for health is highly promoted by current fashion trends, Research reports that women's magazines contained 10.5 times as many advertisements and articles promoting weight loss as men's magazines. Exposure to the media-portrayed "thin-ideal" on a sample of 157 female undergraduates produced depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity, and body dissatisfaction. Other outside influences that can influence the onset of eating disorders are certain professions and activities with stringent weight requirements and/or body image expectations.
Eating disorders involve serious disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight. Eating disorders are not due to a failure of will or behavior; rather, they are real, treatable medical illnesses in which certain maladaptive patterns of eating take on a life of their own.
Researchers are investigating how and why initially voluntary behaviors, such as eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, at some point move beyond some people's control and develop into an eating disorder. Studies on the basic biology of appetite control and its alteration by prolonged overeating or starvation have uncovered enormous complexity, but in the long run have the potential to lead to new treatments for eating disorders.
Research is contributing to advances in the understanding and treatment of eating disorders.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health.
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