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March 21, 1986

Self-induced Vomiting and Laxative and Diuretic Use Among TeenagersPrecursors of the Binge-Purge Syndrome?

Author Affiliations

From the Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Stanford (Calif) University School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1986;255(11):1447-1449. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370110069023

Bulimia (binge-purge syndrome) is a recently described but apparently common eating disorder. Purging behaviors associated with bulimia can cause serious medical complications. Prevalence data on purging behaviors are lacking for younger adolescents. A survey was conducted with 1,728 tenth-grade students to assess their attitudes about eating, dieting, weight control, and frequency of purging. Height, weight, and skin-fold thicknesses were also measured. Thirteen percent reported purging behavior. Female purgers outnumbered male purgers 2 to 1. Male purgers were significantly heavier than male nonpurgers and had significantly greater skin-fold thicknesses and weight/height2 ratios. Both male and female purgers felt guiltier after eating large amounts of food, counted calories more often, dieted more frequently, and exercised less than nonpurgers. Our findings suggest that an alarming number of young adolescents may employ unhealthy weight regulation strategies. Physicians who see adolescents should look for the presence of the attitudes and behaviors that characterize bulimia; this will enhance the likelihood of detection of the disorder and prevention of its complications.

(JAMA 1986;255:1447-1449)