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Vegetarian diet may mask eating disorder in teens

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Teenage vegetarians may be at greater risk of eating disorders and suicide than their meat-eating peers, according to US researchers

Teenage vegetarians may be at greater risk of eating disorders and suicide than their meat-eating peers, according to US researchers.

A study from the University of Minnesota found that adolescent vegetarians were more weight- and body-conscious, and more likely to have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and to have tried a variety of healthy and unhealthy weight-control practices such as diet pills, laxatives and vomiting. They were also more likely than their peers to have contemplated or attempted suicide.

The findings also indicated that adolescents were more likely than adults to be vegetarians for weight-control rather than for health or moral reasons.

Although the authors acknowledge that a vegetarian diet can be more healthy than one that contains red meat, they also note that, in some teens, being a vegetarian may be taken as a red flag for eating and other disorders related to self-image (J Adolesc Health, 2001; 29: 406-16).


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