WebMD News Archive
"We knew that [anorexia] is very serious and is associated with high
mortality [death rate]," researcher Stephan Zipfel, MD, tells WebMD. But
the main message from their research, he says, is that earlier intervention and
referral to specialized facilities are crucial to ensure better patient
According to Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders Inc. (ANRED),
without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. But
with treatment, that number falls to 2-3%. In addition, they say, with
treatment about 60% of people with eating disorders recover.
Persons with anorexia nervosa may display many warning signs including
refusal to maintain a normal body weight, weighing 85% or less than is expected
for age and height, denying the dangers of low weight, and reporting feeling
fat even when very thin.
"If I were a parent of a child, or a spouse of an adult with anorexia
nervosa, what this report would provide to me is evidence to use for lobbying
for longer and better medical care, even in the face of limitations in health
care resources," Cheryl L. Rock, PhD, RD, tells WebMD. "This illness
may be more rare than something like breast cancer, but the total cost is
enormous if not caught early and managed well." Rock is associate professor
in the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of
California, San Diego.
Zipfel says it's important that treatment of severely ill patients "be
handled by an experienced and multidisciplinary treatment team in a specialty
center." ANRED recommends that persons with eating disorders "get into
treatment and stay there."
- After a 21-year follow-up, researchers studying 77 patients with anorexia
nervosa report one in four had a poor outcome. However, about half had
recovered fully from the disease.
- Patients with a poor outcome waited longer to get treatment, failed to gain
adequate weight while hospitalized, and had severe psychological and social
- Observers note anorexia nervosa is a serious disease with a high death rate
if untreated. Family members and doctors should intervene when people show the
early signs of the disease, in order to increase chances of successful