MORE THAN TEENAGE TRIAL: Dangerous diets often persist into 20s, U of M study findsResearchers surveyed nearly 5,000 high school students in the Twin Cities about their eating behaviors, then followed up with nearly 2,300 of them a decade later. They found that diet-pill use more than tripled in most of the age and sex groups during the 10-year study period.
By: Christopher Snowbeck, St. Paul Pioneer Press / MCT
Potentially harmful eating behaviors in adolescents sometimes aren't short-lived.
Instead, consumption of diet pills, self-induced vomiting and other extreme weight-control behaviors during the teen years often persist into the 20s, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota.
Researchers surveyed nearly 5,000 high school students in the Twin Cities about their eating behaviors, then followed up with nearly 2,300 of them a decade later. They found that diet-pill use more than tripled in most of the age and sex groups during the 10-year study period.
Of particular concern, researchers said, is that one-fifth of female young adults reported extreme weight-control behaviors.
"Given the growing concern about obesity, it is important to let young people know that dieting and disordered eating behaviors can be counterproductive to weight management," researchers wrote in a study being published today in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor and public health researcher at the U, led the study and said the results should prompt health care providers to ask patients about unhealthy eating behaviors in children, adolescents and young adults.
Researchers went into the study expecting that adolescents would exhibit more potentially harmful eating behaviors than young adults because teens are so focused on body image.
"We expected over time that the prevalence would somewhat decrease,"
Neumark-Sztainer said. "But what we found is that for most of the groups we looked at, the behaviors either stayed equally prevalent or actually increased in prevalence."
Among other findings from the study:
- About half of females surveyed reported dieting in the past year, compared with about one-fourth of males.
- For older males in the study, use of extreme weight-control behaviors such as diet pills, laxatives and self-induced vomiting increased from 2.1 percent in middle adolescence to 7.3 percent in middle young adulthood.
- Dieting and disordered eating behaviors were more prevalent among girls than boys as they transitioned through adolescence and young adulthood. But about one-third of males reported unhealthy weight-control behaviors, such as skipping meals to lose weight.
"Individuals who begin these behaviors during adolescence are placing themselves at increased risk for their continued use 10 years later," the study's authors wrote.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.