Cognition and the risk of eating disorders in Spanish adolescents: the AVENA and AFINOS studies

A M Veses, S Gómez-Martínez, F Pérez de Heredia, I Esteban-Cornejo, R Castillo, S Estecha, M García-Fuentes, O L Veiga, M E Calle, A Marcos
European Journal of Pediatrics 2015, 174 (2): 229-36

UNLABELLED: Eating disorders (ED) can arise from a combination of biological and psychological factors. Some studies suggest that intellectual factors might be important in the development of ED, although the evidence is still scarce. The aim of this study was to examine the association between cognition measurements (cognitive performance and academic achievement) and the risk of developing ED in adolescents considering their weight status. The sample consisted of 3,307 adolescents (1,756 girls), aged 13-18.5 years, who participated in the AVENA (n = 1,430; 783 girls) and AFINOS (n = 1,877; 973 girls) studies. Cognitive performance was measured by the TEA test in the AVENA study, and academic achievement was self-reported in the AFINOS study. ED risk was evaluated in both studies by using the SCOFF questionnaire. Body mass index was calculated to classify adolescents as non-overweight or overweight (including obesity). Overweight adolescents showed a higher risk of developing ED than non-overweight ones in both studies. In the AVENA study, overweight boys with low performance in reasoning ability showed increased risk of ED (p = 0.05). In the AFINOS study, overweight boys with low academic performance in physical education and non-overweight girls with low academic achievement in all the areas analyzed showed higher risk of ED than their peers (all p < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: No association between cognitive performance and ED risk was found in adolescents, while academic achievement was associated with ED risk, especially in non-overweight girls. The non-cognitive traits that accompany academic achievement could influence the likelihood of developing ED in these girls.

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