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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Anorexia research gets 2m boost
An estimated 1m people in the UK have an eating disorder
More anorexics could get help as part of a 2 million government-funded research project.

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry aim to use the money to devise ways of spotting and treating victims before the disease takes hold.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said the research would help combat the impact of young girls wanting to be "size zero" models.

Experts argue that less than 10% of eating disorder sufferers receive help.

Emotional triggers

They say anorexia - the biggest killer of any psychiatric disorder - can be difficult to diagnose because victims are often not aware they are seriously ill.

But according to the Department of Health, some 15% of cases result in death.

Currently, specialists try to address the underlying psychological issues behind anorexia through a form of counselling called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

CBT aims to change the way the sufferer thinks about a situation and how they react to emotional triggers.

But the new research will aim to develop new forms of treatment targeted at sufferers with special needs, including mothers with eating disorders and women with reproductive problems.

Size zero

Announcing the award, Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "If successful, (the research) will enable professionals to better treat the complex emotional issues that are often associated with anorexia.

"We all have a role to play in tackling a disease that has blighted the lives of too many young people.

"The development of 'size zero' as something young girls aspire to is deeply worrying."

Pressure to conform to a "size zero" model look is widely blamed by specialists as a key factor in the prevalence of the disorder.

The research funding has been awarded to the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, in partnership with the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and the eating disorder charity Beat, based in Norwich.

Professor Ulrike Schmidt, consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital and Professor of Eating Disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, said: "Our programme is unique as it integrates studies covering anorexia from childhood into adulthood, across the whole range of severity.

"In five years time we hope to have new treatments for anorexia that make a lasting and positive difference to the lives of sufferers and their families."

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Beat, added: "We will be contributing to the early identification of eating disorders and how best to support families too."

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