scaleThe number of American children under 12 who were hospitalized because of an eating disorder has jumped 119 per cent between 1999 and 2006, according to a new report.

Eating disorders are sending more U.S. children to hospital, and pediatricians should be on the lookout for patients suspected of having a problem, according to a clinical report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“We are seeing a lot more eating disorders than we used to and we are seeing it in people we didn’t associate with eating disorders in the past — a lot of boys, little kids, people of color and those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Dr. David Rosen, a professor of pediatrics, internal medicine and psychiatry at University of Michigan who authored the research

At the same time as eating disorders have risen, the obesity epidemic has also increased.   According to Rosen, it is crucial how parents and physicians are talking to young people about obesity. Concerns about overweight and obesity have prompted some physicians to counsel their young patients about nutrition, which Rosen said can backfire if not handled correctly. 

“There are lots of kids in my practice who say their eating disorder started when their family doctor told them, ‘You could stand to lose a few pounds,'” Rosen said. “As physicians, we need to make sure our conversations are not inadvertently hurtful or impact their self-esteem.”

Parents and pediatricians also have to be aware of the changes in their children’s health and look for signs.  Signs include a child whose progress on growth charts suddenly changes, very restrictive eating, compulsive over-exercising, making statements about body image and disappearing after meals.

As with mental health problems and addictions, ranging from depression to anxiety disorder to alcoholism, studies have shown that eating disorders can run in families.  There is a strong genetic component, according to Rosen.

“We used to think eating disorders were the consequences of bad family dynamics, that the media caused eating disorders or that individuals who had certain personality traits got eating disorders,” Rosen said. “All of those can play a role, but it’s just not that simple. All young women are exposed to the same media influences, but only a small percentage of them develop eating disorders. So what is different about those 1 percent that develop an eating disorder compared to the 99 percent who don’t?”

It is estimated 0.5 per cent of adolescent girls in the United States have anorexia nervosa (self-starvation), and one to two per cent meet criteria for bulimia nervosa (bingeing and purging).

For more information, read:

Eating Disorders: The Facts and How to Get Help

Eating Disorders in Hollywood: Celebrities Who Suffer


Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.


  1. paula schuck Reply

    I am not shocked really. I know mental health diagnoses get younger and younger. It’s not uncommon to have six year olds in the hospital threatening to kill themselves. Sad but true. We need to look at why this is happening.

  2. This is ironic, you get obesity in young age. The answer key of this problem is family. When your family support to this one, it will help you so much.

  3. Eva is right there are a lot of ways to look int ED. I was form a chunky family but i had managed to lose weight and stay away from the anorexia diseease witha little help from a author named Charlotte Thomson and her Book Thinspiration.

    A Lot of stuff i never tought of that made me lose weight in a healthy way without having myself starve to death or any extreme method.

    I had Lost over 20 lbs and now i feel normal and maintain my health. In a healthy way of course.

    Ive posted some of my results on my blog.

    Annie :X

  4. Clair Almonte Reply

    In my opinion most of the time parents are responsible for this. If they spend more time talking with their kids they could save them from many troubles.

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