Eating disorder features in indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian peoples

22 May 2012

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are well known to have higher risk for a range of disorders related to poor nutrition, namely a diet high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats.

This leads to subsequent increased risk for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal disease. In addition there are higher rates of admissions for mental health problems and self-harm in indigenous Australians. Research into mental health problems closely related to nutrition and obesity such as disordered eating and binge eating is minimal within Australia.
However, international research indicates that these problems are prevalent in other indigenous cultures. A recent review of eating disorders in North American indigenous peoples found disordered eating and weight control behaviours, body dissatisfaction and eating disorders (where measured) were as frequent in First Nations or Inuit peoples as in White or other Americans.
One of the eight studies reviewed was a national US study of young adult women that in particular reported a higher frequency of indigenous women having problems with uncontrolled and/or 'embarrassing overeating' compared to non-indigenous. The studies in this review were however confined to adolescent samples or College recruited samples. Of concern, indigenous people were less likely to be referred on for further evaluation of their eating problems.

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