Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and compulsive eating are becoming more prevalent in the U.S., especially among teens. The death rate for anorexia is twelve times higher than the other causes of death for young adults. Anorexia is a psychiatric disorder characterized by an irrational fear of becoming overweight along with an obsession with food and weight loss. Now research reports that yoga therapy can help relieve eating disorder symptoms.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, examined the effectiveness of yoga therapy on teens with eating disorders. Researchers from Seattle Children’s Hospital Department of Adolescent Medicine administered either standard care or standard care with yoga therapy to 50 girls and 4 boys (aged 11 to 21 years old) with eating disorders for 8 weeks. The diagnosed eating disorders included anorexia, bulimia disorder and other unspecified eating disorders.
Eating Disorder Examination (EDE), Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and Food Preoccupation questionnaire responses were obtained from the participants, BMI (Body Mass Index), hip and waist measurements were also obtained. The standard care group was offered yoga after the study was completed to encourage continued participation in the treatment program.
The researchers found that the yoga group had greater decreases in eating disorder symptoms than the standard care group. The yoga group had reduced EDE scores and Food Preoccupation responses. Initially, the standard care group demonstrated some reduction in EDE scores, although EDE scores returned to baseline levels by week 12. Findings also revealed no BMI changes and decreased anxiety and depression in both groups.
The Main Point
“Individualized yoga treatment decreased EDE scores at 12 weeks, and significantly reduced food preoccupation immediately after yoga sessions,” the study authors write. “Yoga treatment did not have a negative effect on BMI. Results suggest that individualized yoga therapy holds promise as adjunctive therapy to standard care.”
This study is significant because it shows that yoga therapy can be an effective complement to standard care in treating adolescent eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. This is especially important since anorexia can be a deadly disorder particularly for young women.
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Carei TR et al. J Adolesc Health. 2010 Apr;46(4):346-51. Epub 2009 Nov 3..
Gavalas, Elaine. The Yoga Minibook for Weight Loss. Simon & Schuster Fireside. elainegavalas.com .