Disordered eating in French high-level athletes: association with type of sport, doping behavior, and psychological features

Eat Weight Disord. 2017 Mar;22(1):61-68. doi: 10.1007/s40519-016-0342-0. Epub 2016 Nov 12.


Purpose: Over the last few years, disordered eating in athletes has received increasing attention. According to several studies, athletes could be more vulnerable to disordered eating and some characteristics specific to the athletic community could be in favour of an increased risk of poor body image and disturbed eating habits in athletes. However, the literature is sparse and some methodological issues in studies have been pointed out. In this context, we aimed at determining the prevalence of disordered eating in French high-level athletes using clinical interviews of three different clinicians and identifying what are the factors associated with disordered eating in athletes.

Methods: In France, all athletes registered on the French high-level list have to undergo a yearly evaluation. Data collected during the somatic assessment, the dietary consultation, and the psychological of the yearly evaluation were used. Multivariate analysis was performed for identification of factors associated with disordered eating.

Results: Out of the 340 athletes included, 32.9% have been detected with a disordered eating. They were difficult to detect by clinicians, as usual criteria did not seem to be reliable for athletes. Competing in sports emphasizing leanness or low body weight was associated with disordered eating; however, gender was not.

Conclusion: These results highlight the need for the development of specific screening tools for high-level athletes. Furthermore, the identification of factors associated with disordered eating could improve early detection and prevention program effectiveness.

Keywords: Associated factors; Disordered eating; High-level athletes; Prevalence; Sport.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes / psychology*
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Doping in Sports / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Young Adult