Topical Area: Sports Nutrition
Objectives : Disordered eating (DE), although subclinical, increases the risk for clinical eating disorders and is prevalent in collegiate athletes. At the same time, athletes are often more aware of and therefore behave in ways that modify their body composition, as it can influence performance. Despite this understanding, relevant data is lacking and therefore research is needed to establish prevalence rates within specific collegiate sports, and to better understand the relationships between DE behaviors and body composition in student athletes. Therefore, the aims of this study were 1) to determine the prevalence of DE among collegiate athletes and 2) to determine the relationship between prevalence of DE behaviors and body composition.
Methods : NCAA Division 1 student athletes (n = 56) during the 2018-2019 academic year were recruited from various sports: football (n = 13), men’s soccer (n = 2), women’s soccer, (n =13), women’s swimming (n =12), women’s basketball (n =12), track and field (n = 4), and gymnastics (n = 8). DE was assessed using the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) questionnaire, which classified athletes as either asymptomatic (EAT-26 < 20) or symptomatic (EAT-26 > 20). Height and weight were measured and percent body fat, fat mass and lean mass were assessed by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry.
Results : Athlete ages ranged between 18-22 years, 71% (n = 40) identified as female, and their mean BMI was 25.4 kg/m2. No athletes met criteria to be classified as symptomatic for DE (EAT-26 range: 0 to 15). Female athletes had higher mean EAT-26 scores than males (5.6 ± 3.8 vs 2.9 ± 2.1, P = 0.008). Gymnastics had the highest mean EAT-26 score (7.3 ± 3.9) and football had the lowest (3.4 ± 3.5). Although there were no correlations between EAT-26 and percent body fat (P = 0.345) or fat mass (P = 0.984), it was negatively correlated with lean mass (P = 0.038).
Conclusions : In contrast to current research, no athletes were at risk for disordered eating. Despite this, the fact that asymptomatic EAT-26 scores (which assesses prevalence of DE behavior) were still inversely correlated with lean mass, prompts a need for further research to clarify these interactions in collegiate athletes.
Funding Sources : N/A