A Track from Diet Pills and Laxatives to an Eating Disorder

First-time diagnoses appeared 5 years later.

Diet pills and laxative use are known to be linked to ED symptoms. A new study confirms prior work showing us that diet pills and laxatives to lose weight by teens predicts a first-time diagnosis of an eating disorder within the next 5 to 10 years, according to a study by Dr. Vivienne M. Hazzard and colleagues at Sanford Center for Biobehavioral Research, Fargo, ND, and the University of Minnesota (Int J Eat Disord. 2021. May 5. 2021; doi:1002/eat.23531. Published online ahead of print).

Dr. Hazzard and her colleagues used data from 1015 female adolescents and young adults participating in the well-known PROJECT EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults)  project to examine prospective associations between past diet pill and laxative use for weight control and self-reports of a first-time diagnosis of an eating disorder. The women were assessed at average ages of 14.9 years, 19.5, and 24.8 years.

The results showed an elevated risk for subsequent diagnosis of an eating disorder, about 3 and one-half times increased for diet pills, and a little less than three-fold for laxatives. Such efforts at weight control are often described as unhealthy, and the current results support that characterization.

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