Vomit to lose weight? Study says 10-year-olds now do it

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(CBS) It's enough to make you sick. Kids as young as 10 are making themselves vomit in order to lose weight, according to a new study. And believe it or not, the problem is more common among boys than girls.

The study involved about 9,000 girls and 7,000 boys at 120 schools in Taiwan, according to a written statement. It showed that self-induced vomiting was practiced by 16 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 12 and 15 percent of 13-to-15-year-olds.

Overall, 16 percent of boys made themselves sick, compared to 10 percent of girls. Not surprisingly, fat kids were more likely to vomit to lose weight than normal-weight kids.

Which kids are at greatest risk? The researchers, led by Dr. Yiing Mei Liou, director of clinical practice of the school of nursing at National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan, found that kids who used a computer for more than two hours a day were 55 percent more likely to vomit than other kids. Other risk factors included eating fried foods, having late-night snacks, skipping breakfast, and sleeping less than eight hours a day.

The study - published online in the Journal of Clinical Nursing - "showed that self-induced vomiting was most prevalent in adolescents who had a sedentary lifestyle, slept less and ate unhealthily," Dr. Liou said in the statement.

And self-induced vomiting among youngsters isn't a problem only in China. In a 2010 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4% of students said they had vomited or taken laxatives in the last 30 days to lose or stop gaining weight.

Thowing up isn't just gross. Over time, it can lead to all sorts of health problems, from tooth decay, gum problems, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances as well as broken blood vessels in the eyes (from the strain of vomiting) and cuts and calluses on the tops of the fingers (from sticking the fingers into the mouth to elicit the gag reflex).

What's more, the researchers said, throwing up may up children's risk for eating disorders and obesity.

The National Institute of Mental Health has more on eating disorders.