Introduction: Nowadays, eating disorders are an emerging concern in India. Previous studies showed that early detection and intervention of eating disorders is positively related with a good prognosis. Eating disorders in India seems to be rising tremendously, despite this; there are very few published studies on eating pathology and prevalence of women with eating disorders in India. Eating disorders (EDs) are those disorders that comprise of irregular or undesirable eating practices. They are distinguished either by excessive intake or inadequate intake of food, followed by laxative abuse, self-induced vomiting, starvation, over exercising and so on which further lead to full blown eating disorders. With the increasing trend of social networking, poor eating habits and night snacking are a common practice seen in young adults that can further lead to low diet quality and development of serious health problems. Thus, appropriate techniques should be taken into consideration while giving nutrition education or intervention programs targeting young adults.
Objective: To study the eating habits, night snacking patterns and nutrient intake of young women at risk of developing eating disorders.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 93 young women (42 at risk) with mean age of 21.5±1.7 years. Structured questionnaire was used to analyze the eating habits and snacking pattern. Nutrient intake was assessed using 3-day diet recall. Analyses were performed using SPSS software for Windows (version 25, 2017, IBM Corporation, Armonk, New York, and United State). Data are presented as Mean ± SD, median (minimum-maximum) or percentage. P<0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.
Results: Significantly higher percentage of women ‘at risk’ skipped meals to consume snacks as compared to women who were ‘not at risk’ (p<0.05). There was a significant association of frequency consumption of desserts and risk of eating disorder with higher percentage of women ‘at risk’ consuming desserts daily (p<0.05). There was a significant association of satisfaction of current eating habits and risk of eating disorder with higher percentage of women ‘at risk’ (54.8%) not satisfied as compared to women ‘not at risk’ (27.5%) (p=0.024). There was a significant association of special diet followed and risk of developing eating disorders (p=0.009).Women ‘at risk’ had significantly higher score for eating energy dense foods after suppertime and this need to eat was to help them to get sleep after waking up at night (p<0.05) and also they had significantly lower score for having control over eating while up at night and later feel upset due to night eating (p<0.05). Women ‘at risk’ had significantly lesser energy, fat and percentage RDA intake of energy (p<0.05).
Conclusion: Habits and night snacking patterns are highly compromised in young women at risk for developing eating disorders. Abnormal eating habits can lead to development of serious health problems such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, while night eating habits is directly associated with weight issues. Also ‘at risk’ women were assumed to have a poor self-image which may lead to psychological problems in future. Thus, effective counselling techniques need to be used to prevent development of eating disorders in these women.