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8 June 2010 | PR 10/91

Scientists start study to aid mealtime management amongst anorexia patients

Researchers at the Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders (LUCRED) are developing guidelines to help specialist eating disorder clinics and wards across the UK better manage their mealtime provision.

Dr Debbie Wallis and PhD student Stacey Long have reviewed mealtime procedures at wards throughout the UK and have identified wide variations exist, with some units providing one-to-one support and others allocating one member of staff to supervise several patients suffering from anorexia nervosa.

Around one in 250 females and one in 2000 males experience anorexia during their lifetime, with a reported 5.25% of sufferers dying from reasons associated with the illness.

Anorexia nervosa characteristics include a refusal to maintain body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and disturbances in the way sufferers perceive their own body. The illness often requires hospital admission and prolonged inpatient treatment, of which mealtimes form a key part.

Despite this, little research has previously focussed directly on the provision on meals and as such no evidence-based protocols exist for workers in this sector.

Interviews conducted with staff and patients for this study highlighted the need for improvements in staff mealtime training, with staff unsure of how to use distraction during the meals and patients describing mealtimes as ‘battle grounds’.

LUCRED Director Dr Caroline Meyer has praised the work of her team, which is being extended to include a multicentre clinical study on distraction techniques with the Leicester and Birmingham NHS services.

“Our mealtime research is extremely important due to clinical services having no research base from which to draw upon when designing their mealtime interventions,” explained Dr Meyer. “This work will lead to formal UK-wide guidelines published by the leading eating disorders charity beat who provide training and support to NHS and independent services.”

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T :01509 228686
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2009 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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