Adolescent Dieting May Predict Obesity and Eating Disorders
Apr 5, 2006 - 1:44:37 PM

Dieting and "unhealthful weight-control behaviors" among adolescents can predict the development of eating disorders in years to come, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.

In a follow-up to a 1999 study of more than 2,500 junior high and high school students, the researchers found that students who engaged in unhealthy weight-control behaviors such as dieting and binge eating were three times more likely five years later to be overweight than adolescents who did not engage in those behaviors. They were also at significantly increased risk for binge eating with loss of control as well as extreme weight-control behaviors such as self-induced vomiting and the use of diet pills, laxatives and diuretics.

"Findings from this study suggest that dieting, and particularly unhealthful weight control, is either causing weight gain, disordered eating or eating disorders; serving as an early marker for the development of these later problems or is associated with some other unknown variable … that is leading to these problems," the researchers write. They add that "unknown variables" may include personality characteristics or genetic factors.

"None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss," the researchers write.

"Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain. These findings demonstrate that these behaviors should not be viewed as innocuous and should be addressed in primary and secondary prevention efforts."

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