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Study Refutes Myth That Eating Disorders Affect Whites Only

Binge, purge behavior found in more Native American women than men, researchers say

FRIDAY, Jan. 7, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Among Native Americans, women are more likely than men to develop eating disorders, a new study finds.

The researchers also found similarities between Native American and white women in terms of binge eating, purging and ever having been diagnosed with an eating disorder, according to the report published Jan. 6 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

"This commonality between Native American and white women refutes the myth that eating disorders are problems that only affect white girls and women," study leader Ruth Striegel-Moore, a professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

The study authors also found no significant differences between Native American and white men, which they say provides further evidence that eating disorders are not restricted to a certain race.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 10,000 men and women in the United States, average age 22, who took part in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. There were 236 women and 253 men who were either Native American or Inuit.

"This research provides us with a first glimpse into the extent to which young adult Native American populations experience behavioral symptoms of eating disorders," concluded Striegel-Moore. "In the eating disorder field this type of epidemiological study has lagged behind other research, but now we have a foundation to study the distribution of eating disorders and identify psychological risk factors in Native American populations."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about eating disorders.

SOURCE: International Journal of Eating Disorders, news release, Jan. 6, 2011
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