ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Indigo Ointment Benefits Psoriasis Patients
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Gene Therapy May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
CANCER
Adding Garlic Might Cut Cancer Risk
Study Cites Gains in Gall Bladder Cancer Treatment
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
TV Watching Doesn't Fast-Track Baby's Skills
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
DIET, NUTRITION
Is Coffee Good or Bad for Your Health?
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Go Healthy, Not Hungry for Holiday Eating
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
When Gauging Age, the Eyes Have It
Blood Sugar Control Helps Diabetics Preserve Sight
FITNESS
FDA Mandates New Warnings for Botox
Have Fun This Summer, But DO Be Careful
Will the Wii Keep You Fit?
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
Heavy Alcohol Use Linked to Cancer
Hand-Washing Habits Still Need Improvement: Survey Says
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
Coconut Oil May Help Fight Childhood Pneumonia
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
SENIORS
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
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The Dark Side of Vegetarianism

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- Despite its proven health benefits, a vegetarian diet might in fact be masking an underlying eating disorder, new research suggests.

The study, in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that twice as many teens and nearly double the number of young adults who had been vegetarians reported having used unhealthy means to control their weight, compared with those who had never been vegetarians. Those means included using diet pills, laxatives and diuretics and inducing vomiting to control weight.

There's a dark side to vegetarianism, said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. He had no role in the research.

"Adolescent vegetarians [in the study] were more prone to disordered eating and outright eating disorders," Katz said. "This is not due to vegetarianism but the other way around: Adolescents struggling to control their diets and weight might opt for vegetarianism among other, less-healthful efforts."

Vegetarianism, or a mostly plant-based diet, can be recommended to all adolescents, Katz said. "But when adolescents opt for vegetarianism on their own, it is important to find out why because it may signal a cry for help, rather than the pursuit of health," he said.

Katz said he thinks a balanced vegetarian diet is among the most healthful of dietary patterns, and the study suggests some of the benefits.

"Adolescents practicing vegetarianism were less likely to be overweight than their omnivorous counterparts and, were the measures available, would likely have had better blood pressure and cholesterol, too," he said. "Eating mostly plants -- and even only plants -- is good for us, and certainly far better for health than the typical American diet."

The study's lead researcher, Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, an assistant professor in the Nutrition Department at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in St. Joseph, Minn., agreed.

"The majority of adolescents and young adults today would benefit from improvements in dietary intake," she said. The study found, for instance, that the vegetarians among the participants generally were less likely to be overweight or obese.

"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," she said. "Clinicians and nutrition professionals providing guidance to young vegetarians might consider the potential benefits associated with a healthful vegetarian diet, [but should] recognize the possibility of increased risk of disordered eating behaviors."

The researchers collected data on 2,516 teens and young adults who participated in a study called Project EAT-II: Eating Among Teens. They classified participants as current, former or never vegetarians and divided them into two age groups: teens (15 to 18) and young adults (19-23).

Each participant was questioned about binge eating, whether they felt a loss of control of their eating habits and whether they used any extreme weight-control behaviors.

About 21 percent of teens who had been vegetarians said they used unhealthy weight-control behaviors, compared with 10 percent of teens who had never been vegetarians. Among young adults, more former vegetarians (27 percent) had used such measures than current vegetarians (16 percent) or those who'd never been vegetarians (15 percent), the study found.

In addition, among teenagers, binge eating and loss of control over eating habits was reported by 21 percent of current and 16 percent of former vegetarians but only 4 percent of those who'd never followed a vegetarian diet. For young adults, more vegetarians (18 percent) said they engaged in binge eating with loss of control than did former vegetarians (9 percent) and those who were never vegetarians (5 percent), the study found.

Young adult vegetarians were less likely to be overweight or obese than were those who'd never been vegetarians. Among teens, the study found no statistically significant differences in weight.

"When guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning, it is important to recognize the potential health benefits and risks associated with a vegetarian diet," Robinson-O'Brien said. "Furthermore, it may be beneficial to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet and ask about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors."

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more on a healthful diet.



SOURCES: Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor, Nutrition Department, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, St. Joseph, Minn.; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; April 2009 Journal of the American Dietetic Association

Last Updated: April 01, 2009

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