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Belly-Baring Cheerleaders at Raised Risk of Eating Disorders

Body-image issues more likely when college team uniform reveals midriff, researcher says

FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Midriff-revealing uniforms are linked to a higher risk of eating disorders among college cheerleaders, new research shows.

Toni Torres-McGehee, an assistant professor of athletic training at the University of South Carolina, studied 136 college cheerleaders in Division I and Division II, trying to determine if there were links between their team positions, their clothing requirements (full or midriff uniforms, for example), body image and prevalence of eating disorders.

One-third of the cheerleaders appeared to be at risk of developing eating disorders, and those on teams with uniforms that bared the midriff were at highest risk. They were also most likely to have body-image issues.

"Maladaptive body image and eating behaviors can form during youth and last a lifetime," Torres-McGehee said in a news release. "Teams and coaches should consider the long-term effects of requiring cheerleaders to wear revealing uniforms simply for aesthetic reasons."

The study also found that the cheerleaders were most worried about failing to meet the expectations of their coaches regarding their bodies.

"The point of collegiate cheerleading is to create camaraderie and team spirit and to keep girls active and healthy," Torres-McGehee said. "Cheer coaches should keep these ideals in mind and try to reinforce self-esteem among their team members."

The findings were presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore.

More information

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

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American College of Sports Medicine, news release, June 2, 2010

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