Girls with eating disorders regain healthy fatty acid levels when their weight normalizes

July 17, 2012

A study of teenage girls with eating disorders has shown that reduced essential fatty acid levels returned to normal once the girls increased their weight to a healthy level.

The research, published in the August issue of Acta Paediatrica, suggests that it is not necessary to give omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements to adolescent girls with eating disorders.

"Essential fatty acid status is altered in eating disorders that result in weight loss" explains co-author Dr Ingemar Swenne from Uppsala University Children's Hospital. "This is important because deficiencies in polyunsaturated omega-3 essential fatty acids have been implicated in the development of depression and other mental health issues."

Dr Swenne teamed up with child psychiatrist Dr Agneta Rosling, to analyse the red blood cells of 24 adolescent girls who had suffered from eating disorders and had lost an average of 10kgs. Their average age at the start of the one-year study was 14.3 years.

The researchers compared the results from the eating disorders group with 39 normal weight girls from local schools.

Key findings included: "It is clear from our study that once the girls attending the Eating Disorders Unit received adequate nutrition, normalised their eating behaviours and gained weight, their metabolism and endocrine function improved" concludes co-author Dr Agneta Rosling.

"This was sufficient to ensure that their essential fatty acid status improved and, in particular, their omega-3 levels recovered to a more healthy level.

"We believe that this research indicates that providing girls with eating disorders with omega-3 supplements is unnecessary if they normalise their eating behaviour and weight."
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