Thirteen per cent of the 8,673 girls and 7,043 boys who took part in the research admitted they made themselves sick to lose weight. But the figures were much higher in younger children, with 16 per cent of 10-12 year-olds and 15 per cent of 13-15 year-olds vomiting. The figures fell to 8 per cent in 16-18 year-olds.
The study of 120 schools, carried out for Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, also found that 16 per cent of the boys made themselves sick, compared with 10 per cent of the girls.
“Our study, which was part of a wider research project on health and growth, focused on children who said that they had tried to lose weight in the last year” said lead author Dr Yiing Mei Liou, Director of Clinical Practice of the School of Nursing at National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan.
“It showed that self-induced vomiting was most prevalent in adolescents who had a sedentary lifestyle, slept less and ate unhealthily.
“Obesity is a growing problem in industrialised countries and is an increasingly important medical, psychosocial and economic issue. It’s estimated that obesity among children and teenagers has nearly tripled over the last three decades and international studies have revealed worrying trends.
“For example, a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in 2010, found that 4 pc of students had vomited or taken laxatives in the last 30 days to lose or stop gaining weight. And a South Australian study published in 2008 said that eating disorders had doubled in the last decade,” added Liou.
“Our study found that children as young as ten were aware of the importance of weight control, but used vomiting to control their weight,” said Liou.
“This reinforces the need for public health campaigns that stress the negative impact that vomiting can have on their health and encourage them to tackle any weight issues in a healthy and responsible way.
“The findings also suggest that self-induced vomiting might serve as an early marker for the development of obesity and/or other eating and weight-related problems,” added Liou.