Mothers’ Disordered Eating May Be Passed to Their Children

With disordered eating,
it was ‘like mother, like child.’

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April Volume 24, Number 2
©2013 Gürze Books

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPC), also known as Children of the 90s study, has followed more than 14,000 pregnant women, their children, and partners for more than two decades. A team of researchers from Kings College and University College, London, have reported that a mother’s eating disorder can lead to altered dietary patterns and macronutrient intake in their children (J Pediatr. 2013 Jan 17; [Epub ahead of print]).

Mothers participating in the ALSPC study completed Food Frequency Questionnaires when their children were 3, 4, 7, and 9 years of age. The researchers then estimated macronutrient intake and dietary patterns. Linear regression and mixed effects models were then used to assess the dietary pattern and nutritional intake among children of women with lifetime anorexia nervosa (AN; n =140), bulimia nervosa (BN; n = 170) or a combination of AN and BN (n =71). These data were then compared with those from children of 9037 women without eating disorders.

Children whose mothers had AN or BN or both had higher scores on the “health conscious/vegetarian” dietary pattern compared with unexposed children. Children whose mothers had eating disorders also were less likely to have “traditional” dietary patterns, particularly in early childhood. Children of women with AN and BN had higher intakes of energy, and children of women with BN ate more carbohydrates and starch and less fat, compared with children in the control group. In the long term, the authors warn that children of women with eating disorders may be at increased risk of unhealthy weight gain or of developing disordered eating patterns later in life.

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