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French model who died had led a highly public battle against anorexia

December 29, 2010|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Alberto Pellaschiar / Associated…)

Isabelle Caro's emaciated frame on Italian billboards a few years ago carried a shocking anti-anorexia message -- which was exactly what the French model had intended. Her highly publicized battle against the eating disorder, however, didn't manage to save her own life.

Caro died Nov. 17 at the age of 28, media reports say. One story quotes her longtime acting instructor Daniele Dubreuil-Prevot as saying "she did not know the cause of death but that Caro 'had been sick for a long time,' referring to her anorexia."

It has been well documented that women and girls are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health defines the disorder this way:

"Anorexia nervosa is characterized by emaciation, a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight, a lack of menstruation among girls and women, and extremely disturbed eating behavior."

Treatment can be found in a combination of therapy and medications, this Mayo Clinic report says. And a recent Chicago Tribune story outlines an approach where family members are key:

"War broke out on the day Rina Ranalli and her husband told their 12-year-old anorexic daughter the strict new house rules: three meals and three snacks a day. Initially, their bright and previously sweet-natured girl cried, screamed insults and raged.

She threw things. Punched holes in the wall. And she pretended to eat while plotting ways to hide the food. But when the seventh-grader realized her parents had her trapped — they would sit with her 24/7 if they had to -- she ventured down the only available path. She began eating.

Chicago's Ranalli family was using the little-known Maudsley Approach, a grueling but evidence-based treatment for adolescents suffering from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. The approach, also called "family-based therapy," flips conventional treatment on its head." Check out the full story here.

And here's Caro's obituary posted on the Los Angeles Times blog Afterword.

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