Benefits and detriments of vegetarian diets may not balance out: Report

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

A report published today adds evidence to the argument that the health benefits of adhering to a vegetarian diet may not outweigh the potential detrimental effects.

According to scientists from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Texas, Austin, although vegetarians adhere to a healthier diet, evidence suggests that they may be at increased risk for disordered eating behavior.

Their study, published in the April edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, ​examined data on 2,500 adolescents and young adults, identified as current, former or never vegetarians.

“Adolescent and young adult vegetarians may experience the health benefits associated with increased fruit and vegetable intake and young adults my experience the added benefit of decreased risk for overweight and obesity. However, current vegetarians may be at increased risk for binge eating, while former vegetarians may be at increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight control behaviors,”​ found the study.

Data on the participants was taken from a Project EAT survey, which had recorded long-term nutritional behavior of adolescents and adults aged 15 to 23.

The majority (85 percent) had never been vegetarians, while 11 percent were former vegetarians and 4 percent were current vegetarians. They were questioned about binge eating and whether they felt a loss of control of their eating habits. ‘Extreme’ weight control behaviors – such as taking diet pills – were also recorded.

Current vegetarians in the older group (19-23) had a lower body mass index and were less likely to be overweight or obese when compared to those who had never been vegetarian.

In the younger group (15-18), a higher percentage of participants were found to engage in “more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors”​ when compared to never-vegetarians.

According to the researchers, the findings suggest that clinicians should pay particular attention to vegetarianism and the motives for following this type of diet when guiding adolescents and young adults in proper nutrition.

Source:Adolescent and young adult vegetarianism: Better dietary intake and weight outcomes but increased risk of disordered eating behaviorsJournal of the American Dietetic Association​, Volume 109, Issue 4 (April 2009)Authors: Ramona Robinson-O’Brien, PhD, RD, Cheryl L. Perry, PhD, Melanie M. Wall, PhD, Mary Story, PhD, RD, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD.

Related topics: Research

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