Weight issues in overweight and nonoverweight adolescents.




Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Obesity, Weight Loss
Professional Data: Obesity, Weight Loss


It has only been during the past couple of decades that we, as a culture, have discussed and addressed eating disorders. The two eating disorders discussed most often are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Anorexia nervosa has been defined as a serious eating disorder primarily affecting young women in their teens and early twenties, that is characterized especially by an intense fear of weight gain leading to faulty eating patterns, malnutrition, and usually excessive weight loss. Bulimia nervosa has been defined as a serious eating disorder that occurs chiefly in females, characterized by overeating, usually followed by self-induced vomiting, or laxative or diuretic abuse, and is often accompanied by guilt and depression.1

The medical consequences of eating disorders are vast and are related primarily to self-induced starvation. Patients often have vague complaints of lethargy and pain. In addition, there are metabolic and electrolyte imbalances, and dehydration occurs due to poor dietary intake or induced vomiting, and overuse of laxatives or diuretics. Severe electrolyte disturbances can cause cardiac abnormalities and even sudden death. Possible long-term complications include osteoporosis and infertility. Dental problems are often seen in patients who induce vomiting, including erosion of the enamel and staining of teeth.

Recently, investigators in the St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota area assessed the weight matters and behaviors in adolescents. Public schools in these areas completed surveys that focused on the eating patterns and weight concerns in today's teenagers. Over 4,700 teenagers participated in this study. The outcome of this study demonstrated that weight related problems were prevalent among those who were surveyed. Unhealthy weight control behaviors were seen in 57% of girls and 33% of boys. Most overweight teens practiced healthy weight control behaviors although an upsetting number of girls did use extreme and unhealthy weight control tactics. Weight loss methods such as laxative use, diet pills, or vomiting were seen in 18% of very overweight adolescent girls and 6% of boys. The authors stated that prevention involvement that would address weight problems is necessary2 to help decrease the amount of obesity and unhealthy weight behaviors in teenagers.


1. Merriam-Webster on line Medical Dictionary. 1997.
2. Neumark-Sztainer D. Weight-Related Concerns and Behaviors Among Overweight and Nonoverweight Adolescents . Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Feb 2002;156:171-178.