Study: Children As Young As 10 Years Old Make Themselves Sick In Order to Lose Weight

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Children as young as ten are making themselves vomit in order to lose weight, and the problem is more common in boys than girls, according to a new study of nearly 16,000 students in Taiwan.The study researchers stress that self-induced vomiting is an early sign that children could develop eating disorders, such as binge eating and anorexia, as well as other serious psychological problems.

In the study, which included 8,673 girls and 7,043 boys, 13 percent of the participants admitted to making themselves sick to lose weight.

Disturbingly, the rates were significantly higher in younger children: 16 percent of 10-12 year olds reported vomiting and 15 percent of 13-15 year olds did as well.  The rate fell to 8 percent among 16-18 year olds.

Meanwhile, 16 percent of boys said they had made themselves sick in the past year, compared to 10 percent of the girls.

The Taiwan study found that 18% of the underweight children used vomiting as a weight-loss strategy, compared with 17% of obese children and 14% of overweight children. Normal weight children were least likely to vomit (12%).

“[The study showed that] self-induced vomiting was most prevalent in adolescents who had a sedentary lifestyle, slept less and ate unhealthily,” said lead author Dr Yiing Mei Liou, Director of Clinical Practice of the School of Nursing at National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan.

For example, he explained, more than 21 percent of the children who vomited ate fried food every day, 19 percent ate desserts every day, 18 percent ate night-time snacks every day and 18 percent used a computer for more than two hours a day.

Liou advised that parents combat against these habits in order to lessen the risk of their children developing a deadly disorder.

“Our study found that children as young as ten were aware of the importance of weight control, but used vomiting to control their weight,” said Liou. “This reinforces the need for public health campaigns that stress the negative impact that vomiting can have on their health and encourage them to tackle any weight issues in a healthy and responsible way.”

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.