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This week: Eating disorders are linked to exercise addiction • Study explores how to kick the energy drink habit • Research identifies top strategies for weight loss maintenance

Eating disorders are linked to exercise addiction

New research shows that exercise addiction is nearly four times more common among people with an eating disorder.

The study, led by Mike Trott of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK, was published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity.

The research is the first to measure rates of exercise addiction in groups of people with and without the characteristics of an eating disorder. The meta-analysis examined data from 2,140 participants across nine different studies, including from the UK, the US, Australia and Italy.

It found that people displaying characteristics of an eating disorder are 3.7 times more likely to suffer from addiction to exercise than people displaying no such indication.

Trott, a PhD researcher in Sport Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said ‘It is known that those with eating disorders are more likely to display addictive personality and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. We are also aware that having an unhealthy relationship with food often means an increased amount of exercising, but this is the first time that a risk factor has been calculated.

‘It is not uncommon to want to improve our lifestyles by eating healthier and doing more exercise, particularly at the start of the year. However, it is important to moderate this behaviour and not fall victim to ‘crash diets’ or anything that eliminates certain foods entirely, as these can easily lead to eating disorders.

‘Our study shows that displaying signs of an eating disorder significantly increases the chance of an unhealthy relationship with exercise, and this can have negative consequences, including mental health issues and injury.

‘Health professionals working with people with eating disorders should consider monitoring exercise levels as a priority, as this group have been shown to suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of excessive exercise, such as fractures, increased rates of cardiovascular disease in younger patients, and increased overall mortality.’

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

Study explores how to kick the energy drink habit

Regular consumers of popular caffeinated energy drinks may need help kicking the habit.

With the powerful marketing by brands such as Red Bull, V, Mother and Monster, Australian Research Council-funded research is focusing on finding ways to reduce or combat the rising levels of energy and soft drink consumption.

The research aims to find ways to reduce energy drink consumption by either reducing the extent to which energy drink cans capture the attention of regular energy drink consumers (attentional bias) or reducing the tendency for these consumers to approach energy drinks (approach bias). Attentional and approach biases have been demonstrated for a range of appetitive substances, including alcohol, tobacco, drugs and chocolate.

‘We are keen to expand these trial methods on consumers to combat through their attentional and approach bias towards energy drinks’ said Professor of Psychology Eva Kemps; ‘By giving participants some simple techniques, we examined whether they were prepared to moderate their bias toward choosing energy drinks over soft drinks and more healthy options, and perhaps reduce consumption before they become addicted.’

While an occasional energy drink is not problematic, it has been reported that some individuals consume four or more energy drinks a day. Excessive intake can lead to the development of intolerance and serious withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

Energy drink consumption is rising, with one estimate of it doubling in the past 10-15 years to more than 11.5 billion litres a year globally, with a majority of consumers young adults.

Side-effects of excessive intake of the high caffeine drinks, with other stimulants taurine, guarana and ginseng, can lead to a range of negative physical and mental health consequences, including anxiety, depression, or even stress PTSD and substance abuse.

Reported adverse effects range in severity from headaches to heart palpitations, renal failure, seizures, and in rare cases death.

The 226 volunteers in the study – many of them university students – said they consumed one or more cans a fortnight, for an energy boost, to relieve fatigue, improve sporting or academic performance, or as a party mixer with alcohol.

Source: Flinders University

Research identifies top strategies for weight loss maintenance

A recent US study found that building healthy dietary, self-monitoring and psychological coping strategies to be the most successful strategies for sustainable fat loss.

Results published in the journal Obesity found that some of the most effective behaviours and psychological strategies reported by those maintaining their weight loss included choosing healthy food, tracking what you eat and using positive self-talk.

The study by a team from California Polytechnic State University surveyed almost 5,000 members of WW (formerly Weight Watchers) who reported losing an average of about 23kg and keeping it off for more than three years, to look at their weight management strategies. Researchers compared this group to a control group of more than 500 people with obesity who reported not gaining or losing more than 2.2kg for a period of greater than five years.

The research team examined 54 behaviours related to weight management. Compared to the group of weight-stable individuals, the group of weight loss maintainers reported more frequent use of strategies like setting daily food intake goals, recording what was eaten each day, measuring foods, thinking about past successes, and remaining positive in the face of weight regain. The researchers also found that these eating and thinking behaviours became easier and more ingrained over time in the group of those maintaining their weight loss.

‘People who maintained their successful weight loss the longest reported greater frequency and repetition in healthy eating choices’ said Suzanne Phelan, a kinesiology and public health professor who led the study; ‘Healthier choices also became more automatic the longer people continued to make those choices. These findings are encouraging for those working at weight loss maintenance. Over time, weight loss maintenance may become easier, requiring less intentional effort.’

Source: California Polytechnic State University

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