Field Notes

Obese Teens Who Lose Weight May Develop Eating Disorders

In a recent Pediatrics article, Mayo Clinic researchers discuss their belief that obese teenagers who lose weight are at risk for developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Eating disorders among these patients also aren’t being adequately detected because providers and family members see the weight loss as positive, according to the research.

In the article, the researchers argue that formerly overweight adolescents tend to have more medical complications from eating disorders and that it takes longer to diagnose them than kids who are in a normal weight range. This is problematic because early intervention is the key to a good prognosis, says Leslie Sim, PhD, an eating disorders expert in the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center and the lead study author.

Although not widely known, individuals with a history of overweight or obesity represent a substantial portion of adolescents presenting for eating disorder treatment, Sim says.

“Given research that suggests early intervention promotes best chance of recovery, it’s imperative that these childrens’ and adolescents’ eating disorder symptoms are identified and intervention is offered before the disease progresses,” Sim says.

This report analyzes two examples of eating disorders that developed in the process of obese adolescents’ efforts to reduce their weight. Both cases illustrate specific challenges in the identification of eating disorder behaviors in adolescents with this weight history and the corresponding delay such teenagers experience accessing appropriate treatment.

At least 6% of adolescents suffer from eating disorders, and more than 55% of female and 30% of male high school students have reported disordered eating symptoms, including engaging in one or more maladaptive behaviors (eg, fasting, diet pills, vomiting, laxatives, binge eating) to induce weight loss.

Eating disorders are associated with high relapse rates and significant impairment to daily life, along with a host of medical side effects that can be life threatening, Sim says.

— Source: Mayo Clinic


Fish Oil Could Help Protect Alcohol Abusers From Dementia

A new study suggests that omega-3 fish oil may help protect against alcohol-related dementia, according to research from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Previous studies have shown that long-term alcohol abuse increases the risk of dementia. The Loyola study found that in the brain cells of rats exposed to high levels of alcohol, a fish oil compound protected against inflammation and cell death.

The study by Michael A. Collins, PhD, and colleagues was reported at the 14th Congress of the European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism in Warsaw, Poland.

An earlier analysis by Loyola colleague Edward J. Neafsey, PhD, which pooled the results of 143 studies, found that moderate social drinking may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. (Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.)

It appears that small amounts of alcohol may, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia. But too much alcohol overwhelms the cells, leading to inflammation and cell death.

In the new study, Collins and colleagues exposed cultures of adult rat brain cells to amounts of alcohol equivalent to more than four times the legal limit for driving. These cell cultures were compared with cultures of brain cells exposed to the same high levels of alcohol plus omega-3 DHA.

Researchers found there was about 90% less neuroinflammation and neuronal death in the brain cells exposed to DHA and alcohol than in the cells exposed to alcohol alone.

Further studies are needed to confirm whether fish oil protects against alcohol-related dementia. “Fish oil has the potential of helping preserve brain integrity in abusers,” Collins says. “At the very least, it wouldn’t hurt them.”

But Collins adds that the best way for an alcohol abuser to protect the brain is, if possible, to quit drinking or cut back to moderate amounts. “We don’t want people to think it’s OK to take a few fish oil capsules and then continue to go on abusing alcohol.”

— Source: Loyola University Health System