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Sites Contain Graphic Material to Promote Eating Disorders

Many Web sites encourage anorexia, bulimia, though some promote recovery too

FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Pro-eating disorder Web sites are easy to access and contain content that encourages and motivates users to continue their efforts with anorexia and bulimia, though many include recovery-oriented messages as well, according to research published online June 17 in the American Journal of Public Health.

To see the kinds of messages to which viewers might be exposed, Dina L.G. Borzekowski, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues examined the content of 180 eating disorder-supportive Web sites for site accessories, weight loss tips and tricks, "thinspiration" messages, and other features.

The researchers found that 91 percent of the Web sites were publicly accessible, and 79 percent of the sites contained interactive features, such as calorie counters. The sites provided both pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia content (84 and 64 percent, respectively); 85 percent contained "thinspiration" material, and 83 percent gave overt suggestions for how to take part in eating-disordered behaviors. Forty percent of the sites posted warnings that the content may be dangerous or distressing and 38 percent of the sites included recovery information.

"Pro-eating disorder Web sites present graphic material to encourage, support, and motivate site users to continue their efforts with anorexia and bulimia. Continued monitoring will offer a valuable foundation to build a better understanding of the effects of these sites on their users," the authors write.

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