Behind the Journal Article: Thinking Critically about Research Evidence and Eating Disorders

There’s been a fair bit of talk lately (ok, always) about evidence in eating disorders. In addition to the evidence for certain types of treatment, there’s talk about evidence for causes of eating disorders, evidence for whether recovery is possible, and more. The framing I generally see advanced is that we need to be using evidence-based practice only; presumably, this evidence comes from scientific research. I don’t disagree, but in this post I’ll be writing about how science is never wholly objective and is situated in social context.

Let the record show that I love science. I love all kinds of science: biological science, genetic science, neuroscience, social science, you name it, I think learning and research and scientific methods are interesting. I can’t do all kinds of science; as Tetyana says, this blog itself has moved away from “science” as she originally intended it as I continue to dominate … Continue reading →

I Need How Many Calories? Caloric Needs in Bulimia Nervosa Patients

In the 1980s, a few studies came out suggesting that patients with bulimia nervosa (BN) require fewer calories for weight maintenance than anorexia nervosa patients (e.g., Newman, Halmi, & Marchi, 1987) and healthy female controls (e.g., Gwirtsman et al., 1989).

Gwirtsman et al. (1989), after finding that patients with bulimia nervosa required few calories for weight maintenance than healthy volunteers, had these suggestions for clinicians:

When bulimic patients are induced to cease their binging and vomiting behavior, we suggest that physicians and dietitians prescribe a diet in which the caloric level is lower than might be expected. Our experience suggests that some patients will tend to gain weight if this is not done, especially when hospitalized. Because patients are often averse to any gain in body weight, this may lead to grave mistrust between patient and physician or dietitian.

Among many things, this ignores the fact … Continue reading →

Using Animal Research to Justify Eating Disorder Treatment Practices: Are We Going Too Far? (On Eating Junk Food in Treatment – Part II)

As a follow up to Charlene’s  post on eating hyper-palatable foods during eating disorder treatment , I asked Liz–SEDs’ resident expert on animal behaviour, particularly in relation to binge eating and drug addiction–to look at some of the studies that Julie O’Toole mentioned as evidence for Kartini Clinic’s guidelines of avoiding hyper-palatable foods for the first year of eating disorder recovery. If you missed Dr. O’Toole’s post, please do take a look. Here’s the main conversation that led to this post: 

In the comments, I asked Dr. O’Toole, 

I agree that eating cheetos and sugar-y drinks is ubiquitous but not exactly healthy, and I too question many versions of “normal eating” that people promote (and *everyone* has an opinion), but I wonder — if there’s any evidence for not allowing hyper-palatable foods to patients for a year? And what does the Kartini Clinic consider to be hyper-palatable? Why

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The Finest Quality Snake Oil: Mandometer(r) Treatment for Eating Disorders – Part I

PROTIP: When selling your snake oil treatment, try NOT to make wildly outrageous efficacy claims. But if you can’t resist that temptation, try to limit your hard-to-believe, eye-roll-inducing claims to your treatment — there’s no need to go further.

In this post, I’m going to give a brief history of the Mandometer® treatment and its apparent rationale. In the next one or two posts, I will do an analysis of the most recently study by the group that claims to show remission rates of 75% and relapse rates of only 10%. Sounds great, right? Well… we’ll see.

We suggest that the reason self-starving patients do not fit the DSM-IV criteria of anorexia nervosa is because there is in fact no psychopathological basis of the disorder … The DSM-IV offers no definition [of psychopathology], but it is reasonable to assume that a psychopathological basis of anorexia nervosa would be

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Diabulimia: A Dangerous Duet

EDIT: I want to apologize for an oversight in this blog entry. Shelly and I forgot to mention Diabulimia Helpline in our list of organizations that help raise awareness and support sufferers with type 1 diabetes and eating disorders. Diabulimia Helpline is the only non-profit in the US dedicated to “education, support, and advocacy for diabetics with eating disorders, and their families.” I also want to highlight some services that Diabulimia Helpline offers: “a 24 hour helpline available via (425) 985-3635, an insurance specialist to walk clients and/or their parents through the complicated world of getting insurance to cover eating disorders, and a referral service to help people find the treatment centers, doctors, therapists, and counselors that would be a good fit for them on their road to recovery.” – Sincerely, Tetyana

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Type 1 diabetes (DMT1, or T1DM) is a lifelong disease often diagnosed in children or adolescents. … Continue reading →

Lifetime Prevalence of Eating Disorders Among Eating Disorder Professionals

How many professionals that treat eating disorders have a personal history of struggling with an eating disorder? It is a crucial question to ask (and answer) because there are important implications for patient treatment and for the health of the afflicted professionals. It is true that many (or most?) individuals who go into mental health do so because of personal experiences–whether due to their own personal history or the experiences of a loved one–so it is useful to ask, just how common are eating disorders among ED treatment professionals?

This is the question that Nicole Barbarich asked in a survey mailed to 823 members of the Academy for Eating Disorders.

Barbarich developed a 14-item self-report questionnaire that assessed everything from basic demographics to personal eating disorder history and their employer’s hiring policies. Out of 823 potential participants, 399 completed the questionnaire.

SUMMARY OF MAIN FINDINGS

Demographics of Survey RespondersContinue reading →

Anorexia Nervosa: Can We Blame The Season Of Birth?

You might have heard that individuals born between the months of June – August (or sometimes March – August) have a higher chance of developing anorexia nervosa. But is it true? A lot of studies have been done to investigate the question of whether a season of birth (or a month) correlates with a higher risk of anorexia or bulimia nervosa. The results are inconsistent, weak, and fraught with methodological problems.

But first, how could seasons (or the average temperature during birth, or conception) have an effect on the etiology of eating disorders? What’s the hypothesis?

There seem to be two main ideas (summarized in Winje et al., 2012):

  1. alterations in neuropsychological function as a result of sunlight exposure during gestation or postpartum, maternal infections during pregnancy, or nutritional changes (seasonal variation in nutrients, vitamins)
  2. alterations in fertility/reproductive patterns of the parents due to cultural influences, disordered eating in
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Eating Disorders Among Lesbian and Bisexual Women

The hardest part of science blogging is picking an article to blog about. In times when I’m indecisive–when I spend hours sifting through the literature, inevitably creating several draft posts before deciding each article isn’t interesting enough–I turn to the list of topics that have been suggested by readers. The last suggestion I received was “eating disorders in the lesbian community.” It is a great suggestion, but I thought my search wouldn’t turn up much. But, to my surprise, it did turn up some studies.

But please, don’t expect too much: it is not a well-studied area, and most of the data comes from self-reported questionnaires, which are not particularly reliable:

  • First, there’s selection bias: the 50% or so of people who return the surveys could be different in significant ways from the 50% that don’t. For example, in a survey about mental health, perhaps individuals that
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Gender Nonconformity, Transsexuality and Eating Disorders

Too many people still mistakenly believe that eating disorders are for the Mary-Kates, Nicole Richies and Lara-Flynn Boyles, or vain adolescent and teenage girls aspiring to be just like them. Actually, as I’ve blogged earlier, even male veterans in late middle age are not immune to struggling with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. All in all, males make up ~ 5-10% of all eating disorder sufferers.

But what about those that dread having to check off “male” or “female” on a data form? What about individuals who feel their gender identity is not the same as their assigned birth sex. Perhaps they were born in a female body, with two XX chromosomes, but they feel and prefer to think of themselves as males, or the reverse? There’s some research (albeit limited, due to the rarity of both gender dysphoria and eating disorders) that suggests these individuals face an increased … Continue reading →