The Dark Side of Vegetarianism

About 21 percent of teens who had been vegetarians said they used unhealthy weight-control behaviors, compared with 10 percent of teens who had never been vegetarians. Among young adults, more former vegetarians (27 percent) had used such measures than current vegetarians (16 percent) or those who'd never been vegetarians (15 percent), the study found.

In addition, among teenagers, binge eating and loss of control over eating habits was reported by 21 percent of current and 16 percent of former vegetarians but only 4 percent of those who'd never followed a vegetarian diet. For young adults, more vegetarians (18 percent) said they engaged in binge eating with loss of control than did former vegetarians (9 percent) and those who were never vegetarians (5 percent), the study found.

Young adult vegetarians were less likely to be overweight or obese than were those who'd never been vegetarians. Among teens, the study found no statistically significant differences in weight.

"When guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning, it is important to recognize the potential health benefits and risks associated with a vegetarian diet," Robinson-O'Brien said. "Furthermore, it may be beneficial to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet and ask about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors."

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more on a healthful diet.

SOURCES: Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor, Nutrition Department, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, St. Joseph, Minn.; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; April 2009 Journal of the American Dietetic Association

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