Newswise — The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) issued a warning about the proliferation of Web sites promoting anorexia. Although such sites are officially banned in the United States, they can be found and viewed easily in the U.S. and across the globe.

To address the problem, the AED calls upon government officials and internet service providers to require warning screens for "pro-ana" Web sites. The screens should reflect the potential harmfulness of the sites, much like the warning labels found on cigarette packs.

Earlier this year, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital released results of a study providing the first concrete evidence for the harmfulness of pro-anorexia Web sites. They found that 61% of the visitors to these sites used them to obtain tips on weight loss and purging techniques as well as ways to hide their food-avoidance tactics from friends and family members. The study also revealed that teens who visit these sites spend less time on schoolwork than their peers and more time in the hospital than those who do not use the sites.

"Adding statements such as, 'Warning: anorexia nervosa is a potentially deadly illness. The site you are about to enter provides material that may be detrimental to your health,' would be a good start to confronting this problem," said AED President Eric van Furth, PhD, FAED.

Dr. van Furth further noted that the Web sites pose a danger because they promote anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle, provide support and encouragement to engage in health threatening behaviors, and neglect the serious consequences of starvation. "In this respect, the Web sites provide a barrier to breaking through the illness and seeking help," he explained.

Denial of the seriousness of the illness is one of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa. Thus, Web sites that glorify anorexia as a lifestyle choice play directly to the psychology of its victims.

The Academy for Eating Disorders is an international, trans-disciplinary professional organization with over 1,400 members worldwide. The AED promotes excellence in research, treatment and the prevention of eating disorders. It provides education, training and a forum for collaboration and professional dialogue. Visit for more information on AED, eating disorders, and the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders.

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