Using the results of Project EAT-II: Eating Among Teens, researchers from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Texas, Austin, analyzed the diets, weight status, weight control behaviors, and drug and alcohol use of 2,516 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 23. These participants had been part of Project EAT-I, an earlier survey of middle school and high school students from 31 Minnesota schools using in-class surveys, food frequency questionnaires, and anthropometric measures taken during the 1998-99 academic year.
Participants were identified as current (4.3%), former (10.8%), and never (84.9%) vegetarians. Subjects were divided into two cohorts, an adolescent (15-18) group and a young adult (19-23) group. They were questioned about binge eating and whether they felt a loss of control of their eating habits. More extreme weight control behaviors including taking diet pills, inducing vomiting, using laxatives, and using diuretics were also measured.
The authors found that among the younger cohort, no statistically significant differences were found with regard to weight status. Among the older cohort, current vegetarians had a lower body mass index and were less likely to be overweight or obese when compared to never vegetarians.
Among the younger cohort, a higher percentage of former vegetarians reported engaging in more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors when compared to never vegetarians. Among the older cohort, a higher percentage of former vegetarians reported engaging in more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors when compared to current and never vegetarians.
In the younger cohort, a higher percentage of current and former vegetarians reported engaging in binge eating with loss of control when compared to never vegetarians. In the older cohort, a higher percentage of current vegetarians reported engaging in binge eating with loss of control when compared to former and never vegetarians.
Writing in the article, Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, Assistant Professor, Nutrition Department, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, St. Joseph, MN, states, “Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors. Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning, it may also be important to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet.”
Several maladaptive eating behaviors, beyond anorexia, can affect women. Indeed, some 10 to 15 percent of women have maladaptive eating behaviours and attitudes according to new study from the Université de Montréal and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
“Our results are disquieting,” says Lise Gauvin, a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Social and Preventive Medicine. “Women are exposed to many contradictory messages. They are encouraged to lose weight yet also encouraged to eat for the simple pleasure of it.”
Some 1,501 women took part in the phone survey on eating disorders and disordered eating. Not one participant was classified as anorexic. The average age of these urban-dwelling participants was 31, the majority of respondents were non-smokers and university graduates.
Dr. Gauvin says the study sheds new light on binge eating and bulimia, which are characterized in part by excessive eating accompanied by feelings of having lost control. “About 13.7 percent of women interviewed for this study reported binge eating one to five days or one to seven times per month,” she says, noting 2.5 percent of women reported forcing themselves to vomit, use laxatives, or use diuretics to maintain their weight or shape.
The investigation also established a link between problematic eating behaviours and self-rated health. In other words, deviant eating behaviours are more likely to occur in women who perceived themselves to be in poor health.
Another finding of the study was that 28 percent of women complete intense exercise twice a month with the sole objective of losing weight or influencing. “We practice a sport for the pleasure it provides, to feel good, but when the activity is done to gain control over one's weight and figure, it is indicative of someone who could be excessively concerned about their weight,” says Dr. Gauvin. “Our data suggests that a proportion of the female population displays maladaptive eating patterns.”
This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
While vegetarians tend to eat healthier diets and are less likely than non-vegetarians to be overweight or obese, they may be at increased risk for binge eating with loss of control, and former vegetarians may be at increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors, according to researchers at University of Minnesota, University of Texas and St. John's University.
The researchers analyzed vegetarianism, weight, dietary intake and weight-control behaviors data from a population-based study in Minnesota of more than 2,500 males and females between 15 and 23. They found vegetarians ate healthier diets than non-vegetarians when it came to fruits, vegetables and fat intake. Among young adults, current vegetarians were less likely to be overweight or obese.
However, adolescent and young adult vegetarians were also more likely to report binge eating with loss of control compared to non-vegetarians. Among adolescents, former vegetarians were more likely to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors. And among young adults, former vegetarians were more likely to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors than people who either were currently vegetarians or had never followed a vegetarian eating plan.
Examples of extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors included “took diet pills,” “made myself vomit,” “used laxatives” and “used diuretics.”
The researchers conclude: “Adolescent and young adult vegetarians may experience the health benefits associated with increased fruit and vegetable intake and young adults attain the added benefit of decreased risk for overweight and obesity. However, vegetarians may be at increased risk for disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating and unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
“Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors. Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning it may also be important to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet.”
Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association