Dangers of a Vegetarian Diet in Teens

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December 29, 2001 | 33,542 views

Teenage vegetarians may be at greaterrisk of eating disorders and suicide than their meat-eatingpeers.

Their study found that adolescent vegetarianswere more weight and body-conscious, more likely to have beentold by a doctor that they had an eating disorder, and morelikely to have tried a varietyof healthy and unhealthy weight control practicesincluding diet pills, laxatives and vomiting.

They were also more likely than theirpeers to have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Male vegetarians were even more likelyto engage in unhealthy weight control practicessuch as vomiting after eating and weighing themselves frequentlythan non-vegetarian males.

The findings suggest that vegetarianismmay serve as a red flag for eating and other problems relatedto self-image in teens.

The study indicates that adolescentvegetarians are more likely than adult vegetarians to be vegetariansfor weight-control than for health reasons.

Because they are so interested in weightcontrol, they engage in a variety of behaviors that are associatedwith trying to lose weight, both healthy and unhealthy.

The study found that nearly 6% of nearly5,000 urban middle- and high-school students surveyed in Minnesotareported that they were vegetarian, or did not eat red meat.More than half of the vegetarians reported eating chicken,about 42% ate fish, more than three-quarters ate eggs andnearly 80% consumed dairy products.

Overall, semi-vegetarians, or those whoate some animal products, were more likely to engage in weight-controlpractices but less likely to exercise than restricted vegetarians.Semi-vegetarians may be using the diet as another form ofweight control and may be a target for programs to preventeating disorders.

All vegetarians weighed themselves moreoften and were more likelyto say that they were dissatisfied with their bodiesthan non-vegetarians. Vegetarians were also more likely toreport that they cared less about being healthy although theycared more about eating healthy foods.

The results of the study show that nearlythree-quarters of vegetarianswere females and nearly half were white.

The main reason for following a vegetariandiet was a desire to lose or maintain weight. Students alsosaid they did not want to be involved in killing animals,they did not like the taste of meat, they thought vegetarianismwas a healthier diet, and they wanted to help the environment.

Journalof Adolescent Health December 2001;29:406-416

This study does not really document some of the major dangers with choosing to be a vegetarian. You can view the list below for that information.

However, for those of you who have a teenage vegetarian or who are health care practitioners who treat these individuals, this is very important information.

One clearly needs to be sensitive to the fact that the teenager may have an eating disorder that would benefit from an effective intervention.

My current favorite recommendation for an intervention for an eating disorder would be EFT.

Related Articles:

Strict Vegetarians Can Develop Blindness or Brain Injury

Vegetarian Diet In Pregnancy Linked To Birth Defect

The Myths of Vegetarianism

Is Being a Vegetarian Part of Living Healthy and Longer?

Vegetarian Diet May Increase Alzheimer's Risk

Vegetarian Diet Can Cause Repeat Miscarriages

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