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Number asking for help with eating disorder has skyrocketed, says charity

The Scottish Government is consulting on plans to add calories to menus (PA)
The Scottish Government is consulting on plans to add calories to menus (PA)

An eating disorder charity said it has received a 300% increase in the number of calls to its helpline in Scotland as a consultation on adding calorie content to menus closes today.

Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Friday, Tom Quinn from Beat – a charity supporting those with eating disorders – said the number of people asking for help has “skyrocketed” since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “In Scotland, we’ve seen that 300% increase in people calling our helpline. I mean, the numbers of people that are coming forward to us for help has skyrocketed over the last couple of years. And so it’s really coming in at the worst possible time.”

It comes as a Scottish Government consultation on calories being added to menus closes on Friday. The legislation has already been introduced in England.

Beat has called for any legislation on the issue to be avoided and has warned of the impact on those with eating disorders.

Mr Quinn said: “This is going to have a really detrimental impact on people with eating disorders. We’ve already seen that in England.

“The rules were introduced in England in April. And we’ve already seen hundreds of people contact our helpline who are feeling that it’s having a damaging impact on their eating disorder.

“So these are people who already find calorie labelling very difficult. It’s more likely to make them restrict their eating if they’re got anorexia for example, and it’s more likely to to make them binge eat, if that’s something that they’re more likely to do.”

Research shows, Mr Quinn argued, that the move would have “no impact” on the general public.

He added: “The evidence is really clear that this will have no impact on the general public. So studies that have taken place where this has happened elsewhere have shown, for example, in the States there was a 4%, a really small reduction, in the the amount of calories eaten, but after a year that had completely disappeared, people went back to eating what they’d always been eating.

“We estimate that there are over 100,000 people with an eating disorder in Scotland. It’s not a small number of people that would be affected by this.

“We’ve done a survey of people affected by eating disorders in Scotland, and 95% of them are really concerned about this.”