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The Fight Against Anorexia

Extremely thin models and actresses in the fashion and entertainment industry are largely shaping our current ideas of beauty. Yet at the same time, the public is becoming more aware of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, with demand increasing for more effective measures to fight these diseases. As a whole, anorexia nervosa and bulimia are relatively rare diseases in society. Of those affected, 90% of them are women, establishing that particularly girls and women are especially vulnerable, and at an increased risk, of developing an eating disorder. Every one in five women is estimated to be affected by an episode of abnormal eating habits at least once during her lifetime. However, only 1% develop an actual case of anorexia or bulimia.

 Due to the low number of cases, men who suffer from anorexia have long been neglected by medical science. But in recent years this has changed, thanks to more available information, better education and an increased awareness. This has led to more frequently diagnosed cases of anorexia in men, however, the estimated number of unreported cases still remains high. At their root, bulimia and anorexia have many various psycho-social causes: role models and the current beauty ideals have a great influence on the development of the eating disorder. Already from childhood, children are exposed to dolls and figurines that feature an entirely unrealistic body image. Similarly, the media conveys a false idea of what a natural body looks like with representations of very slender and often photoshopped bodies.

Eating disorders are beginning to be recognized as a key issue around the world. In 2015, the French parliament passed a law for the protection of models. This year, the law was further tightened. From now on, models will have to submit a medical certificate attesting to their physical health, with emphasis on a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). Infringements, on the part of employers, are punishable by imprisonment and harsh fines. From October 1 2017, digitally edited photos must also be labelled accordingly.

Although the introduction of medical certificates is generally considered a positive change, medical science criticizes the BMI's importance in health assessment as a decisive factor. The BMI only takes into account the size and the body weight of the model, and doesn’t always reflect their actual nutritional state. This is especially true for very tall or small people, as well as those who are physically fit. Besides, their weight can be influenced by large quantities of liquid in the short term, thus producing a higher BMI. The bioimpedance analysis offers a far more accurate method for body measurements. Devices such as our seca mBCA measure the proportion of the adipose and muscle tissue, as well as the body fluid, and provides precise data on a person's actual nutritional state. Following the example of France, other countries are currently discussing similar laws. Although the implementation is not yet optimal, legal regulation represents an important step towards the prevention of anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

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