Paying attention to eating habits early can prevent disorders later

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, one third of college women and one fourth of college men battle eating disorders.

It might not always be obvious that your loved one is suffering from disordered eating, which is why it's important to listen to their concerns and pay attention to their eating habits.

"If someone expresses a concern about an eating disorder, take it seriously. Get that person evaluated. They may have normal lab evaluation, they may have a normal physical exam, but still have life-threatening disordered eating attitudes and behaviors," says Dr. Ellen Rome of Cleveland Clinic Children's.

The most common types of disordered eating are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and variations of both.

Behaviors to watch for in children include sudden diet changes, such as becoming vegetarian, cutting out all fats, excessive picky-eating, or starting adult-type diets and food restrictions.

Dr. Rome says that children need more protein and fat in their diets than adults and when children mimic the diets of their parents or grandparents, they can set themselves up for nutritional problems.

The key for a successful outcome is being able to recognize a problem as early as possible.

For those who struggle with disordered eating, doctor Rome says it's important to have a health care team that is well versed with all of the facets of disordered eating, both physical and mental, as it can be life-saving.

She says the goal is to get patients into the 'top third' of recovery, meaning they will be able  to go on with life, after treatment, without ever having any more disordered eating.

"Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health illness because it has such mind and body challenges. We want to recognize it early and help every kid get up to that top third of recovery," Dr. Rome says.

With medical help and early intervention, eating disorders can be treated.

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