23 Mar USPSTF: Screening for Eating Disorders in Adolescents and Adults
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lori Pbert, Ph.D
Professor, Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences
Associate chief of the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine
Founder and Director of the Center for Tobacco Treatment Research and Training
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Dr. Pbert joined the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in January 2019
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: This is the first time that the Task Force has looked at the evidence around screening for eating disorders. It was important to address this topic because of the serious harm that these conditions can cause to people’s physical and mental health, and the tremendous toll eating disorders have on individuals and families.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: After reviewing the limited available research, we determined there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against screening teens and adults for eating disorders in adolescents and adults who do not have signs or symptoms of an eating disorder or concerns about their eating. It’s important to note that this recommendation is not for people who are showing signs or symptoms of eating disorders, like rapid weight loss or gain, slow heart rate, delayed puberty, or a disruption of menstruation, or for those expressing concern about their eating.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: It’s critical that readers understand that the Task Force’s I statement is not a recommendation for or against screening, but a call for more research. In the meantime, health care professionals should also be aware of any signs and symptoms of eating disorders, listen to their patients’ concerns about eating, and make sure any patients who need help are able to get the support they deserve.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: There are many gaps in the current evidence. First, we need studies to better understand how to accurately identify eating disorders in people who are not presenting with signs or symptoms of an eating disorder, and what treatments are effective to help those whose eating disorder is detected through screening in primary care. Second, we need studies on the harms of screening people without signs or symptoms, including the risk of stigmatization or false-positive results, which is when a test indicates someone has an eating disorder but they do not. And third, while evidence is limited in all people, certain groups are significantly underrepresented in studies about eating disorders. These include men, adolescents, certain racial and ethnic groups, and those of various sexual orientations and gender identities including transgender individuals.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Screening for eating disorders can lead to early detection and treatment, which has the potential to improve the lives of many people. We hope that the evidence gaps highlighted in this recommendation can help guide researchers as they develop new trials on screening for eating disorders in primary care. We hope to see new studies in the future that allow us to offer more guidance on the best ways to identify eating disorders so everyone can get the care they need.
- US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Eating Disorders in Adolescents and Adults: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. 2022;327(11):1061–1067. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.1806
- Feltner C, Peat C, Reddy S, et al. Screening for Eating Disorders in Adolescents and Adults: Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. 2022;327(11):1068–1082. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.1807
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