Malnourished adolescents who are hospitalized with anorexia nervosa can safely gain weight on a higher-calorie diet, according to a new study from the University of California San Francisco.
“This is the first study to follow patients in the hospital on a more aggressive feeding protocol and it’s clear that we’re seeing better results as compared to the traditional approach,” said Andrea Garber, PhD, RD, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, in a university press release. She and her colleagues work in the UCSF Adolescent Eating Disorders Program.
“Higher calorie diets produce twice the rate of weight gain compared to the lower calorie diets that currently are recommended for adolescents hospitalized with anorexia nervosa,” according to a press release from University of California San Francisco.
UCSF scientists compared diet protocols for anorexia nervosa in teens. Current recommendations from the American Psychiatric Association, American Dietetic Association and others call for diets around 1200 calories per day, gradually increased by 200 calories every other day. A potentially fatal condition called refeeding syndrome can develop when a starving person eats too much, too soon.
“These findings are crucial to develop evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of young people suffering from malnutrition related to anorexia nervosa,” said Garber, in a university press release.
A group of 56 primarily white teens participated in the study. They started at 1800 calories per day and added about 120 calories per day. A control group started at 1100 calories a day and advanced at a slower rate of 100 calories per day.
Those on the higher calorie diet gained more weight and left the hospital sooner, without developing refeeding syndrome, the researchers found.
Since 2008, the UCSF Adolescent Eating Disorders Program has been starting patients on a higher calorie approach. Garber and her colleagues have found that the malnourished adolescents can tolerate and benefit form higher calorie diets.
“This higher calorie approach is a major shift in treatment that looks really promising – not only from a clinical perspective of better weight gain, but from the perspective of these young people who want to get better quickly and get back to their ‘real’ lives,” Garber said in a university statement.
Their findings will be published in the November issue of the [i]Journal of Adolescent Health [/i] challenging the current conservative approach to feeding hospitalized adolescents with anorexia, according to a press release.
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