Mental Health

Web program may help ward off eating disorders.

Participants have better body image.

Web program may help ward off eating disorders.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young women showed less
dissatisfaction with their weight and shape after participating
in an Internet-based eating disorder prevention program,
researchers from Germany found.

The program’s effects were strongest among the women who were at
highest risk of developing eating disorders, Dr. Corinna Jacobi
of the Technical University of Dresden and colleagues report.
Stanford University developed the program called Student Bodies
to help at-risk young women adopt healthy eating habits and
become more satisfied with their bodies. Jacobi and her team
adopted the program for a German audience by translating text and
audio files and replacing any elements that were too culturally
specific to the US.

They recruited 100 university students aged 18 to 29, all of whom
said they wanted to improve their body image, and randomized half
to participate in the Student Bodies program for eight weeks. The
other half were assigned to a waiting list and served as a
control group.

Three months later, the women who had participated in the
Internet program showed lower scores on a test measuring their
drive for thinness. They also scored lower on tests of weight
concern and body shape concern compared to the control group, but
the difference was not statistically significant.

However, when the researchers restricted their analysis to the 22
young women at highest risk for developing an eating disorder
based on their weight concerns at the study’s outset, those who
participated in the program showed significant reductions in their
concerns over their weight and shape compared to those who
were in the control group.

Because girls face the greatest danger of developing eating
disorders during adolescence, further research is needed to see
if the intervention is effective in younger people, the authors
conclude.

Source: National Institute of Health (NIH), International Journal of Eating Disorders, March 2007

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