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Kids at Risk for Eating Disorders Have Higher IQs

A new study finds cognitive differences in high risk kids, before they develop eating disorders.


Can identifying risk factors early on help with
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By Chrisanne Grise


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Children at high risk for eating disorders demonstrate significant cognitive differences from those at lower risk, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Medicine. Researchers at the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) drew from a study of 6,200 children between ages 8 and 10 and they discovered that those with a close relative with anorexia on average have a higher IQ and better working memory (the ability to temporarily hold and process useful information). However, these kids were also found to have poorer attentional control in general. Children with a bulimic family member tended to have difficulty assembling objects, illustrating poorer visuo-spatial skills than the control group. According to study author Radha Kothari, studying kids who are at risk—instead of those who have developed eating disorders—rules out diet as a contributing factor. "This meant we could focus on characteristics that might increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, rather than characteristics which might be the result of an eating disorder," she says, and this type of insight that could eventually help support prevention-based treatment. Dr. Nadia Micali, who led the research, says: "Although more research is needed to clarify these results, these findings should nevertheless help in the identification of vulnerable children, and in furthering our understanding of which neuropsychological characteristics may make a child susceptible to an eating disorder."

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