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J Adolesc Health. 2008 Jan;42(1):58-63. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Do chronic medical conditions increase the risk of eating disorder? A cross-sectional investigation of eating pathology in adolescent females with scoliosis and diabetes.

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Academic Unit of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.



To investigate levels of eating pathology in female adolescents diagnosed with a chronic condition causing appearance change (adolescent-onset idiopathic scoliosis), a chronic condition affecting nutritional behavior (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), and healthy age-matched controls.


Cross-sectional comparison of 192 females aged 11-19 years; 76 individuals diagnosed with scoliosis, 40 diagnosed with diabetes, and 76 control participants. Disordered eating behavior was quantified using the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire, and weight and body mass index (weight [kg]/height [m(2)]) measurements were taken for each participant.


The scoliosis group weighed less and had lower BMI scores (p < .001) than control participants. Of the participants with scoliosis, 25% were severely underweight, but only two met the behavioral criteria for anorexia nervosa; in others no association with disordered eating behaviour was found. Eating disorders were significantly more common (p < .05) in the diabetes participants than in the control group, with 27.5% of the group classified as having bulimia or binge eating disorder. All those classified as overweight or obese in the diabetes group were classified as pathological in terms of eating behavior.


The relationship between scoliosis and low body mass is a concern but is not a result of an eating disorder. Etiological mechanisms remain unclear and require further investigation. In the diabetes participants, bulimia and binge eating may prejudice effective condition management. Implications for successful adaptation, treatment intervention, and future research are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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