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Weight Control Product Use in Adolescence Ups Risk for Later Eating Disorder

Last Updated: June 11, 2021.

FRIDAY, June 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Teens using diet pills and laxatives are at increased risk for a future eating disorder diagnosis, according to a study published online May 5 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Vivienne M. Hazzard, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., from the Sanford Center for Biobehavioral Research in Fargo, North Dakota, and colleagues assessed prospective associations between use of products for weight control (e.g., diet pills or laxatives) and subsequent receipt of a first-time eating disorder diagnosis among 1,015 female adolescents and young adults. Follow-up lasted from early-to-middle adolescence (mean age, 14.9 years) through young adulthood (mean age, 24.8 years).

The researchers found that 2.4 percent of participants received a first-time diagnosis of an eating disorder in late adolescence/emerging adulthood (mean age, 19.5 years) versus 4.0 percent of participants in young adulthood. Participants using diet pills (risk ratio, 3.58) and laxatives (risk ratio, 2.77) had a greater risk for receiving a first-time eating disorder diagnosis within five years than those not using these products when adjusting for demographics and weight status.

"This could either mean that use of these products is an early marker of an eating disorder, or that these products actually serve as risk factors for eating disorders," a coauthor said in a statement. "If using these products does increase risk for an eating disorder, it could be by contributing to dysregulation of eating behaviors and/or digestion."

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