Have you ever had an eating disorder? Have you ever wondered if eating disorders correlate with celiac disease? According to a recent study by Tel Aviv University in Israel, there does appear to be a connection.
A group of 136 adolescents ages 12-18 were surveyed online. Of the females, 19% disclosed they had eating disorders. Of the males, 7% said they had eating disorders.
Compare this to adolescents without celiac disease–8% of female teens and 4% of male teens have eating disorders. So the incidence is about twice as common for those with celiac disease.
Eating disorders were most common in overweight, older, teen girls with celiac disease.
The online survey asked for gender, weight, age, how long they’d had celiac disease as well as a questionnaire about gluten free diet and a questionnaire about eating attitudes.
Eating disorders were defined as self-induced vomiting, skipping meals on a regular basis, strict dieting, binge eating, and rigid calorie restrictions.
Parents who have children with celiac disease should be aware of the increased possibility of an eating disorder.
Awareness is important to allow for proactive communication, earlier identification, and a more educated approach to reolving the issue (such as working with a professional to make dietary adjustments instead of becoming anorexic).
This is especially important for adolescents with celiac disease as they may already be at a disadvantage when it comes to their body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
A celiac teen who is suffering from anorexia or bulimia could become malnourished even more quickly than is normal.
And if a celiac teen is binge eating, there is a stronger likelihood they will eat gluten containing foods since they probably aren’t planning out their meals.
Unfortunately, only 1/3 of the surveyed adolescents strictly adhered to a gluten free diet. So 2/3 of the teens, despite their diagnosis, still eat some gluten.
I think it would be interesting to differentiate between the rates of eating disorders in two groups of celiacs–people who eat strictly gluten free and people who don’t.
I know when I accidentally get cross-contaminated, I usually fast for 12-16 hours simply because my body tells me it doesn’t want food.
This is also an important metric since about 1/4 of adolescents who exhibit the eating behaviors described above go on to develop full-blown eating disorders. And of those who develop robust eating disorders, 1/3 don’t recover.
Hopefully this study will raise awareness for medical professionals, friend, and family and create an opportunity for patient education by facilitating communication.