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Young Vegetarians Eat Better But Have More Disorders

Last Updated: April 02, 2009.

Young adult and adolescent vegetarians tend to eat more fruit and vegetables than their non-vegetarian counterparts and are at lower risk of obesity, but they are also more prone to unhealthy weight control activities and binge eating, according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

THURSDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Young adult and adolescent vegetarians tend to eat more fruit and vegetables than their non-vegetarian counterparts and are at lower risk of obesity, but they are also more prone to unhealthy weight control activities and binge eating, according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, Ph.D., of the College of Saint Benedict+Saint John's University in St. Joseph, Minn., and colleagues conducted a study of 2,516 young people aged 15 to 23 who completed a survey and food frequency questionnaire, which identified 4.3 percent as current vegetarians, 10.8 percent as former vegetarians, and 84.9 percent as never having been a vegetarian.

Although current vegetarians were less likely than their counterparts who had never been vegetarians to be overweight or obese, and also had healthier eating habits in terms of consumption of fat, fruit and vegetables compared to non-vegetarians, they also reported binge eating more frequently, the researchers found. Moreover, adolescent former vegetarians were more likely to engage in extreme measures to control their weight compared to those who had never been vegetarians.

"It would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors," the authors write.

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