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Pro-eating disorders on the web? That doesn't make sense, does it?

I really couldn't imagine it: Web sites that promote eating disorders. Yet, they proliferate on the Internet. Researchers who conducted the first large-scale analysis of some 180 sites that use the terms "pro-ana," as in anorexia, or "pro-mia," as in bulimia, came away with some interesting perspectives. According to Stanford/Lucile Packard Children's Hospital pediatrician Rebecka Peebles, MD, senior author of the new study, "These sites are fairly diverse. Some sites have very hard-core information about how to intensify your eating disorder, some have a lot of pro-recovery content and many have a mix of both."

I was so unsettled after reading a press release about the study and the existence of these Web sites that I felt compelled to sit down with Peebles and discuss the research and the illness. In my latest 1:2:1 podcast, Peebles talks not only about the nature of these pro-eating disorder sites and their "perceived harm scores," but also about treating these illnesses and new hope for recovery.

"If these Web sites make us uncomfortable," said Peebles, "the focus at the public health level should be asking how we can reach and treat more people struggling with disordered eating." Indeed!

Previously: "Pro-ana" websites reflect users' conflicted inner worlds

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