BACKGROUND: In spite of the social concern about eating disorders (ED), information of its prevalence in Spain is limited. Further studies in communities are needed to estimate the frequency of this problem in representative samples of the population. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: To estimate the prevalence of anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and partial syndromes of the "non specified eating disorders" (NOSED) type, a representative sample of the female population of Navarre was selected using a random multistage sampling scheme. A sample of 2862 participants aged 12 to 21 was studied. The screening procedure was performed using the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) (values over 30 as the cutoff point) and each diagnosis was confirmed using a semi-structured interview performed by a psychiatry according to DSM-IV criteria. RESULTS: The overall prevalence of ED in this female population was 4.1% (95% CI: 3.45-4.95). The disorder specific prevalences being NOSED 3.1% (95% CI: 2.5-3.8), BN 0.8 (95% CI: 0.5-1.2) and AN 0.3 (95% CI: 0.1-0.6). CONCLUSIONS: Our results show a slight lower prevalence than what other Spanish authors have reported, although we found higher prevalences of incomplete syndromes and suggest that a high social burden does exist and primary prevention strategies are needed.