Eating disorders have risen in recent years. A new finding may help catch them earlier

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The study results suggested that electrolyte levels can help health care professionals identify who might benefit from eating disorder screening, experts said.


(Madeline Holcombe/ CNN News) — Health care professionals may now have a way to identify possible eating disorder cases a year before they would have been diagnosed, allowing patients to receive support much sooner, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed provincial health data from Ontario, Canada, for people age 13 and older starting in 2008. The study team tracked participants’ electrolyte levels until 2020 and noted how many were diagnosed with eating disorders, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open.

The results showed that people who experienced electrolyte abnormalities were twice as likely as those who didn’t to be diagnosed with an eating disorder — sometimes more than a year later. And people with severe abnormalities were more than five times as likely to be diagnosed, the study showed.

Abnormal electrolyte levels are common when a person is diagnosed with an eating disorder, said lead study author Dr. Gregory Hundemer, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and a nephrologist at the Ottawa Hospital. (…)

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