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JLo's fuller figure 'makes her a wonderful role model for women'

FEMALE stars who have "fuller figures" - such as Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez are good role models for women, an expert on eating disorders said yesterday.

Dr Michael Bourke, a psychiatrist in the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin, said certain women have a sensitivity to images of very thin people which may leave them at risk of an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

Addressing a meeting of the depression support group, AWARE, Dr Bourke said it was wonderful to see these female superstars with normal physiques.

Advertising using images of very thin people was immature and inappropriate, he said, and he pointed to one magazine ad that showed a diagram of a woman's waist shrinking while she ate a particular type of bread.

While these images were not entirely to blame for eating disorders, it was now recognised that some people have a particular vulnerability when interpreting them, which puts them at risk .

Dr Bourke, who was discussing the links between eating disorders and depression, said that in Great Ormonde Street hospital in London children as young as nine were now being treated for eating disorders.

Given the level of knowledge about the disease, it was very rare nowadays that an anorexic could persist without being identified by family or teachers. However, people with bulimia who used different ways of maintaining weight, including throwing up and taking laxatives might be more difficult to identify.

He warned they were at risk of tearing of the oesophogus, damaged kidneys and heart problems. Continued use of laxatives could also lead to the collapse of the bowel. "Laxatives have not weight-reducing value", he said.

Survival rates for people with anorexia were improving and one of the main tasks was to take the fear out of the treatment.

"The treatment involves showing them that it can be replaced with something better", he added.

Early recognition, early intervention and the skill of the treatment team were key issues in securing a good prognosis.

It used to be believed that people with eating disorders were depressed because of their condition but it was now recognised that this was not always the case. Some people suffered from a separate illness of clinical depression and this needed to be treated with medication.

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And if depression was a reaction to the eating disorder it could be treated as part of the same psychotherapy, he added.

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