Two common misconceptions regarding anorexia nervosa are that it is associated with severely low weight and can cause health problems for the underweight. However, atypical anorexia can occur in patients who are in the healthy, overweight and even obese weight range. Recent research now shows that adolescents and young adults with atypical anorexia are just as susceptible to health complications that are commonly associated with patients with low body mass index or BMI.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the research was carried out for the UCSF Eating Disorders Program. Participants between the age of 12 and 24 were selected for the randomized clinical trial. Of these 91 percent were female. The participants were split into two groups, 66 with anorexia nervosa (excluding the severely underweight) and 50 patients with atypical anorexia nervosa. The latter were participants with heavier weight.
The team found that patients with atypical anorexia nervosa were just as likely as underweight counterparts to suffer various medical complications, such as bradycardia (slow heart rate), irregular or no mensuration, and electrolyte imbalances. However, the psychological impact of the condition was significantly higher in patients in the atypical group because of their heightened negative perception of body and weight.