A recent study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Nursing (2011; doi: 10.1111/j.1365-27022011.03739.x) uncovered troubling evidence that children as young as age 10 engage in self-induced vomiting in order to lose weight. The survey included 15,716 Taiwanese boys and girls aged 10–18 from 120 schools. Each participant was asked to complete a survey that included questions on topics such as physical activity, diet, sleep, sedentary behavior and self-induced vomiting and dietary behaviors. School nurses then measured each student’s height and body weight.

According to the data, 13% of respondents who had attempted weight loss had used vomiting as a means to do so. Of that group, males were more likely to vomit (16.3%) than were females (10.4%). Children aged 10–15 had a higher rate of self-induced vomiting than children aged 16–18.

“Families and schools should attempt to identify and mitigate behaviors associated with obesity among adolescents as early as possible,” the study authors suggested. “Early interventions focused on helping adolescents with self-induced vomiting develop positive feelings about themselves, their weight, shape and physical appearance.” Such inter-ventions “may ultimately have a protective effect on these individuals.”