Former and current adolescent vegetarians are more likely to have eating disorders than their non-vegetarian counterparts, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Researchers collected data from 2,516 adolescents and young adults, ages 15 to 23, who completed a mailed survey and food frequency questionnaires in 2004. Participants were identified as current vegetarians, former vegetarians and never vegetarians. Here’s what they found (quoted from the article’s abstract):
• Current vegetarians in the younger and older groups had healthier dietary intakes than non-vegetarians with regard to fruits, vegetables and fat.
• Among young adults, current vegetarians were less likely than never vegetarians to be overweight or obese.
• Adolescent and young adult current vegetarians were more likely to report binge eating with loss of control when compared to non-vegetarians.
• Among adolescents, former vegetarians were more likely than never vegetarians to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
• Among young adults, former vegetarians were more likely than current and never vegetarians to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
The researchers conclude that clinicians should ask people about their vegetarian status when assessing the risk of eating disorders.