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A simple questionnaire may help predict future eating disorders

December 14th, 2005

A new study by Dr. Christopher G. Fairburn and his colleagues at Oxford University finds that a brief questionnaire was able to predict 70 percent of the future eating disorder cases among a group of 2,992 women aged 16 to 23 with no previous history of eating disorders, who participated in the two year project.

1. Have you been deliberately trying to limit the amount of food that you eat to influence your shape or weight (whether or not you have succeeded)?

2. Have you gone for long periods of time (8 waking hours or more) without eating anything at all in order to influence your shape or weight?

3. Have you tried to exclude from your diet any foods that you like in order to influence your shape or weight (whether or not you have succeeded)?

4. Have you tried to follow definite rules regarding your eating (for example, a calorie limit) in order to influence your shape or weight (whether or not you have succeeded)?

5. Have you had a definite desire to have an empty stomach with the aim of influencing your shape or weight?

Each item was scored based on the previous month, and received 0 points for “never” during that period and 5 points for “every day” during that period.

In general, women who progressed to an eating disorder were much more likely to say they often ate “in secret” or frequently wanted to feel they had an “empty stomach.” They also showed a greater preoccupation with food or their body shape, and more often feared they would “lose control” of their eating.

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