10 Facts to Make You Rethink Eating Disorders

If I say "eating disorder," what do you think? On a regular basis, I am struck by the lack of understanding and perpetuation of myths about eating disorders.

The theme of this year's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 22-28, 2015) is, "I had no idea." I love that theme because there is so little clarity on the topic. And this lack of clarity allows myths about eating disorders to live on, not only in the general public but also in the hearts and minds of doctors, nurses, therapists and dietitians.

I am eager to share some very surprising but extremely important facts about eating disorders with each of you. And I hope you'll consider sharing this blog post with others. When it comes to eating disorders, did you know…

  1. According to the NIH, eating disorders are six times more prevalent than Alzheimer's disease. Yet for every $0.93 spent on eating disorder research, $88 is spent on Alzheimer's research.
  2. Alcohol and substance abuse are four times more common in those with eating disorders than in the general population.
  3. Multiple studies have shown the rate of development of new cases of eating disorders has been increasing since 1950.
  4. There has been a rise in incidence of anorexia in young women aged 15 to 19 in each decade since 1930.
  5. The incidence of bulimia in 10- to 39-year-old women tripled between 1988 and 1993.
  6. The prevalence of eating disorders in the U.S. adult population is about 7 percent. (As a point of reference, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. adult population is around 9 9 percent.)
  7. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.
  8. These are not ""teenager"" diseases. In one recent study, 13 percent of women over 50 found eating disorder symptoms within the past 5 years. And 70 percent report the symptoms resulting from attempts to lose weight.
  9. 10 million males will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lifetimes.
  10. It's not just a white 'girl's illness. The prevalence of eating disorders in the U.S. is similar among non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans.

I have seen it written and said often that eating disorders are rare; they are not. Eating disorders are all around us and they are on the rise. And this is an important fact for anyone working in the health care industry, but particularly for RDNs as we are often the first to detect an undiagnosed eating disorder.

Below are some great resources for dietitians and anyone else who wants to learn more about the most effective treatment of eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Education Resources

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Marci Anderson Evans, MS, RD, LDN

Marci Anderson, MS, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian in private practice in Cambridge, Mass. She manages a group practice specializing in treating a broad spectrum of disordered eating, and she blogs about a variety of topics at MarciRD.com. Follow her on Twitter.