Eating disorders are generally thought of as a plague of affluent white girls, but minorities aren't immune. In a study of just over 2,000 women (average age: 21) published in The American Journal of Psychiatry last week, Ruth Striegel-Moore of Wesleyan University found that whites were more likely than blacks to suffer from bulimia (23 cases to 4) and anorexia (15 to 0). But the numbers were closer for binge-eating (27 to 15), and other recent studies have found that behavior to be a problem among Hispanic girls, too.
Researchers are also zeroing in on genes and environmental factors associated with eating disorders. Striegel-Moore found similar rates of extreme behaviors (like vomiting) in more-affluent blacks and whites, suggesting that higher social status--and the pressure to be thin that comes along with it--could lead to more problems. Overall, eating disorders are rare among all races and ethnicities, but obesity is out of control. We need to be on the lookout for both.