Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Vegetarians & Eating Disorders

Tuesday, Apr. 07, 2009
Study: Is Vegetarianism a Teen Eating Disorder?
By John Cloud Time Magazine

Being a teenager means experimenting with foolish things like dyeing your hair purple or candy flipping or going door-to-door for a political party. Parents tend to overlook seemingly mild, earnest teen pursuits like joining the Sierra Club, but a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that another common teen fad, vegetarianism, isn't always healthy. Instead, it seems that a significant number of kids experiment with a vegetarian diet as a way to mask an eating disorder, since it's a socially acceptable way to avoid eating many foods and one that parents tend not to oppose.

The study, led by nutritionist Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, an assistant professor at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Minnesota, found that while adolescent and young adult vegetarians were less likely than meat eaters to be overweight and more likely to eat a relatively healthful diet, they were also more likely to binge eat. Although most teens in Robinson-O'Brien's study claimed to embark on vegetarianism to be healthier or to save the environment and the world's animals, the research suggests they may be more interested in losing weight than protecting cattle or swine.

For one thing, many young "vegetarians" continue to eat the white meat of defenseless chickens (25% in the current study) as well as the flesh of those adorable animals known as fish (46%), even when they are butchered and served up raw as sushi. And in a 2001 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that the most common reason teens gave for vegetarianism was to lose weight or keep from gaining it. Adolescent vegetarians are far more likely than other teens to diet or to use extreme and unhealthy measures to control their weight, studies suggest. The reverse is also true: teens with eating disorders are more likely to practice vegetarianism than any other age group. Read More

There are a couple of things to take from this article. First is that there are less teenage vegetarians that many of the vegetarian/vegan activist groups claim. According to this study, only 4% of the teenagers didn’t eat meat. And the other thing to take home from this is that parents should be concerned about their child if they start a vegetarian diet. Even if there aren’t any other eating problems, just being vegetarian led to more binge eating. Eating a good diet isn’t hard, just eat everything in moderation.

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