SIMPLE online treatments could save many women from developing "size zero" eating disorders, experts said today.
Research shows computer-based therapy has a dramatic impact on those at risk from anorexia and bulimia.
Experts at City University found "do-it-yourself " psychological treatments accessed over the internet could boost self-esteem as well as reducing concerns about shape and weight.
The findings are based on a survey of 1,107 female students, aged 17 to 36, who were asked to "self-administer" by completing computer- based questionnaires.
These included completing a daily "food log" to help identify specific triggers for abnormal eating.
Despina Learmonth, who led the study, called for online treatment to be made more widely available.
She said: "Eating disorders seem to be becoming increasingly prevalent in Western societies and they are difficult illnesses to treat.
"The cost of treatment for them is extremely high. It's vital that successful and easy-to-administer prevention programmes are developed and made available to those in need." Anorexia has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness. It can also lead to problems such as infertility and heart complaints.
Traditional approaches to eating disorders involve hospital stays and are intensive and costly.
An additional problem is diagnosis. A person with bulimia, for example, may maintain a normal body weight so their condition can go unnoticed for years.
The "size zero" computer therapy is aimed at people with low self- esteem. It is based on treatments used by psychologists to enable patients to overcome negative …