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Knowledge of and attitudes towards eating disorders of undergraduate nutrition majors at three Colorado universities




Winer, Marcia H., author
Auld, Garry, advisor
Wdowik, Melissa, advisor
Rickard, Kathryn, committee member

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Eating disorders are potentially deadly conditions. RDs who are knowledgeable about eating disorders can have a positive impact in eating disorder treatment. They can also contribute by recognizing symptoms of eating disordered behavior in clients and bringing awareness of the issue to the public through education on the differences between healthy and disordered eating. The question addressed in this research is: Are the Didactic Programs in Dietetics at three Colorado universities adequately preparing students, intent on becoming RDs, for encounters with patients with eating disorders? In this study, participants were asked to complete a survey on their knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes towards eating disorders. Participation was completely optional and anonymous. Topics included etiology of eating disorders, knowledge of the physical effects of eating disorders, attitudes towards treating patients with eating disorders, and knowledge of treatment options and procedures for eating disorders. There was no difference between schools in students' knowledge and attitudes except for the belief in the likelihood of anorexia nervosa to be fatal and the number of practitioners to which students would refer a client with an eating disorder. Significant differences were found between students who suspected and/or had been diagnosed with an eating disorder compared to those who had not. Those who had been diagnosed with or suspected they had an eating disorder were more knowledgeable about anorexia and bulimia nervosa, felt eating disorders were harder to treat, and felt that individuals who develop eating disorders were less in control of the disease. While undergraduate Didactic Programs in Dietetics (DPD) students in Colorado appear somewhat knowledgeable about anorexia and bulimia nervosa, they know less about binge eating disorder. It is recommended that DPD programs make time for at least a brief overview of EDs in appropriate classes, such as medical nutrition therapy or lifecycle nutrition, to better prepare students for encountering patients with EDs during their careers. This instruction should not only cover the physical signs, symptoms, and treatment options for EDs but also the psychological aspects of the disorders.


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eating disorders


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