For people who are genetically vulnerable, dieting itself is a risk factor for eating disorders, while strict dieting is even a bigger risk, Lilenfeld said.
Parents and pediatricians should look for signs of eating disorders, including a child whose progress on growth charts suddenly changes, very restrictive eating, compulsive overexercising, making concerning statements about body image, vomiting, disappearing after meals or use of laxatives and diet pills.
Eating disorders, especially anorexia, can have long-term consequences for health, including leading to early osteoporosis and death.
"We know the sooner they get some evidence-based treatments, the better the outcome," Lilenfeld said.
"The good news is eating disorders can be 'cured' -- that is to say, the person isn't merely keeping the condition at bay but can actually get over it," Rosen said. With treatment and maturity, many kids move beyond the eating disorder.
"The conventional wisdom is eating disorders are incurable. You have them for life, you never get better and the best you can hope for is to keep it under control like alcoholism," Rosen said. "That's not the reality, particular for children and teenagers with eating disorders. The majority of children and adolescents get all better."
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on eating disorders.
SOURCES: David Rosen, M.D., M.P.H., professor, pediatrics, internal medicine and psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Lisa Lilenfeld, Ph.D., incoming president, Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy and Action, Washington, D.C.; December 2010, Pediatrics
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