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A longitudinal study of eating behaviours in childhood and later eating disorder behaviours and diagnoses

  • Moritz Herle (a1), Bianca De Stavola (a2), Christopher Hübel (a3), Mohamed Abdulkadir (a4), Diana Santos Ferreira (a5), Ruth J. F. Loos (a6), Rachel Bryant-Waugh (a7), Cynthia M. Bulik (a8) and Nadia Micali (a9)...

Abstract

Background

Eating behaviours in childhood are considered as risk factors for eating disorder behaviours and diagnoses in adolescence. However, few longitudinal studies have examined this association.

Aims

We investigated associations between childhood eating behaviours during the first ten years of life and eating disorder behaviours (binge eating, purging, fasting and excessive exercise) and diagnoses (anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, purging disorder and bulimia nervosa) at 16 years.

Method

Data on 4760 participants from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were included. Longitudinal trajectories of parent-rated childhood eating behaviours (8 time points, 1.3–9 years) were derived by latent class growth analyses. Eating disorder diagnoses were derived from self-reported, parent-reported and objectively measured anthropometric data at age 16 years. We estimated associations between childhood eating behaviours and eating disorder behaviours and diagnoses, using multivariable logistic regression models.

Results

Childhood overeating was associated with increased risk of adolescent binge eating (risk difference, 7%; 95% CI 2 to 12) and binge eating disorder (risk difference, 1%; 95% CI 0.2 to 3). Persistent undereating was associated with higher anorexia nervosa risk in adolescent girls only (risk difference, 6%; 95% CI, 0 to 12). Persistent fussy eating was associated with greater anorexia nervosa risk (risk difference, 2%; 95% CI 0 to 4).

Conclusions

Our results suggest continuities of eating behaviours into eating disorders from early life to adolescence. It remains to be determined whether childhood eating behaviours are an early manifestation of a specific phenotype or whether the mechanisms underlying this continuity are more complex. Findings have the potential to inform preventative strategies for eating disorders.

Declaration of interest

C.M.B. reports conflict of interest with Shire (grant recipient, Scientific Advisory Board member) and Pearson and Walker (author, royalty recipient). All other authors have indicated they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Dr Nadia Micali, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Palliative Care and Paediatrics Section, Population, Policy and Practice Research Theme, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK. Email: N.micali@ucl.ac.uk

References

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A longitudinal study of eating behaviours in childhood and later eating disorder behaviours and diagnoses

  • Moritz Herle (a1), Bianca De Stavola (a2), Christopher Hübel (a3), Mohamed Abdulkadir (a4), Diana Santos Ferreira (a5), Ruth J. F. Loos (a6), Rachel Bryant-Waugh (a7), Cynthia M. Bulik (a8) and Nadia Micali (a9)...
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