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Vegetarians more likely to have eating disorders?


For some, a vegetarian or vegan diet can be the perfect mask for an eating disorder.

If you're cutting out entire food groups, being picky about what you consume and eating less at social functions with the rationale that your diet won't allow it, no one will suspect a thing, right?

Study finds a link between vegetarianism and eating disorders

In an alarming 2012 study that was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, statistics showed that women who have eating disorders are four times more likely to be vegetarian than women who don't. In the study, 52 percent of women with a history of an eating disorder had, at one point, been vegetarian.

Dr. Carolyn C. Ross says that vegetarianism "has a natural appeal for those with tendencies toward disordered eating. It is a socially acceptable way to cut out a number of specific food groups and to restrict fat and calorie intake."

When food becomes an obsession

She also notes that women with an inclination toward vegetarian eating might also become obsessed with labeling foods into "good" and "bad" categories--a valid concern, especially for vegans, but one that can get out of hand if it stems from fear of gaining weight. If this is the woman's main motivation for going vegetarian, Ross says, it might be a red flag or cause for concern.

In a related study called Project EAT, about 6 percent of adolescents from 31 schools in Minneapolis said they were vegetarians, with 35 percent of those students making the choice to eat that way in order to lose weight.

While vegetarian and vegan diets in no way cause eating disorders, the connecting link from these studies is worth further investigation. All vegetarians should make sure they're getting proper nutrition and maintaining healthy levels of key vitamins and minerals, Ross notes.

Source: Psychology Today