Colorado tackles eating disorders by limiting use of BMI and diet pill sales to kids

May 30, 2023, 4:28 PM

FILE - Visitors stand on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol, April 23, 2023, in Denver. Colorad...

FILE - Visitors stand on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol, April 23, 2023, in Denver. Colorado is tackling a surge in eating disorders with two bills signed Tuesday, May 30. The legislation will create a state program dedicated finding solutions to the mental illness, ban the use of body mass index in determining treatment and restrict the sale of diet pills to minors. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER (AP) — In the midst of a surge in eating disorders across the country, Colorado’s acting governor signed bills Tuesday that will create a state program dedicated to addressing the mental illness, limit the use of body mass index in determining treatment and restrict the sale of diet pills to minors.

Colorado and several other states tackling the issue are responding to the nearly 30 million Americans — roughly the population of Texas — who will struggle with an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, in their lifetime. More than 10,000 people will lose their life to the condition every year, according to data cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

“Eating disorders are serious and have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness,” Vincent Atchity, CEO of Mental Health Colorado, said in a statement on the bills. “We will save lives by removing barriers to care and helping those who are struggling (to) find healing.”

The changes will take effect at different times, but roughly within a year.

One of the bills, signed by Colorado’s Lieutenant Gov. Dianne Primavera in her capacity as acting governor, will largely ax the use of body mass index, or BMI, in determining the level of treatment for eating disorders, even though it remains an industry standard.

Proponents of the new law say the centuries old BMI — a calculation of someone’s height and weight — is antiquated and flawed.

Eating disorders are not invariably linked to body weight or BMI, said Claire Engels, program coordinator for the Eating Disorder Foundation, which supported the bill. Instead, they center around eating habits, anxiety, depression, trauma and control. That means those with eating disorders who fall outside the BMI prescription struggle to get proper care or are expelled from treatment prematurely.

Instead, the law will compel health insurers to consider a patient’s eating behaviors, heart rate or blood pressure among other criteria when determining treatment coverage.

The same law will also limit the sale of diet pills to minors after experts argued that they can exacerbate, or even instigate, eating disorders.

A second bill signed Tuesday will create a state program that will offer resources on eating disorders, administer a grant to research the mental illness, and raise awareness publicly and among students, parents and staff at schools.

The pandemic worsened the crisis by pushing some, especially teenagers, into isolation, filling hospital beds and further burdening the already overwhelmed treatment centers. Colorado is joined by a number of states, including California, New York and Texas, in considering bills to quell the problem this year.

Other proposals across the U.S. include restricting social media algorithms from promoting potentially harmful content and including curriculum on eating disorders in middle and high schools.


Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

National News

Associated Press

A child sex abuse suspect kills himself after wounding marshals trying to arrest him, police say

IRMO, S.C. (AP) — A man wanted by police for child sex abuse crimes shot and killed himself Friday after wounding two federal marshals trying to arrest him at a South Carolina hotel, investigators said. A special team of U.S. Marshals was trying to arrest George Curtis at an extended stay hotel near Columbia when […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Baltimore Archdiocese says it will file for bankruptcy before new law on abuse lawsuits takes effect

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Friday that it filed for Chapter 11 reorganization days before a new state law goes into effect removing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse charges and allowing victims to sue their abusers decades after the fact. The step will “allow the archdiocese to equitably compensate […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division...

Associated Press

Bail bondsman charged alongside Trump in Georgia becomes the first defendant to take a plea deal

ATLANTA (AP) — A bail bondsman charged alongside former President Donald Trump and 17 others has become the first defendant in the Georgia election interference case to accept a plea deal with prosecutors. Scott Hall pleaded guilty in court on Friday to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Navy to start random testing of SEALs, special warfare troops for performance-enhancing drugs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy will begin randomly testing its special operations forces for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs beginning in November, taking a groundbreaking step that military leaders have long resisted. Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, announced the new program Friday in a message to his force, calling it […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Iowa book ban prompts disclaimers on Little Free Library exchanges

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — State restrictions on books that can be made available to Iowa students have prompted some Des Moines-area school districts to post disclaimers on Little Free Libraries. Earlier this year the Iowa Legislature approved a law that bans books that describe sex acts from libraries and classrooms, forcing school districts […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

New York man who served 18 years for murder acquitted at 2nd trial

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A New York man who spent 18 years in prison for a murder he said he did not commit was found not guilty at a second trial. Paul Scrimo, 66, was acquitted on Thursday in Nassau County Court in the strangulation death of Ruth Williams in 2000, Newsday reported. Scrimo was […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Colorado tackles eating disorders by limiting use of BMI and diet pill sales to kids