Does Early Dieting Increase the Risk of Obesity and Eating Disorders?

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2005 Volume 16, Number 3
©2005 Gürze Books

According to Diane Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD, and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota, dieting early in life places youth at risk for eating disorders, disordered eating patterns, and obesity as they reach adulthood (J Adolesc Health 2005; 36:152).

An ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sampling of middle school and high school students, Project EAT was originally conducted in 1998-1999. The authors’ analysis focused on 1,729 older adolescents who were followed from high school to young adulthood.

Preliminary analyses show that 24% of the females and males were overweight or at risk for becoming overweight (body mass index > than the 85th percentile), using self-reported height and weight data. Binge eating was reported by nearly 16% of the females and 4.6% of the males. Extreme weight control behaviors, including laxatives, vomiting, diet pills and diuretics were reported by 24.3% of females and 6.6% of males. Diagnosis of an eating disorder in the past year was reported by 5.7% of females and 0.5% of males.

The effect was greater among females

Initial analyses also show that early dieting was significantly associated with becoming overweight in young adulthood and the later onset of binge eating. Among females, early dieting was associated with the onset of extreme weight control behavior in females and had a borderline significance among males. Early dieting was also associated with eating disorders in the past year among females. Among males, associations with early dieting were not significant.

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