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Dieting Teens End Up with Unhealthy Habits

FIONA MACRAE

Posted May 5, 2006

TEENAGERS who diet are more likely to become overweight and develop eating disorders, according to a study.

Those who resort to drastic techniques such as skipping meals or using laxatives are at the greatest risk.

But even those who stick to 'healthy' regimes of fruit and vegetables may struggle more with their weight in later life.

Researchers believe dieters have more obsessive personalities, making them prone to extreme eating patterns.

They may also lose the ability to judge how full they are or how many calories they have eaten leading to them putting on the pounds rather than losing them.

The scientists from the University of Minnesota found that dieting adolescents are three times as likely to become overweight as their non-dieting peers.

They are twice as likely to develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

And those who use the drastic measures are six times more likely to end up with one of these illnesses. They said: 'We found that dieting-and particularly unhealthy weight control behaviours, were not effective in weight management over time, and were actually associated with weight gain.

We concluded that dieting was ineffective and even dangerous.' The study, in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, said dieting may be an early symptom of an eating disorder.

Researcher Dr Dianne Neumark-Sztainer said teaching teenagers how to maintain a healthy weight was essential to stemming the rising tide of obesity.

Around two million British schoolchildren are classed as overweight while 700,000 are obese. Dr Neumark-Sztainer added: 'Teens should be encouraged to engage in eating and exercise behaviours that can be implemented over a long period of time.' The scientists tracked the eating habits of 2,500 boys and girls for five years. Their average age at the start of the study was 13.

More than half of the girls and a quarter of the boys had dieted in the previous year.

After five years, a quarter of the boys and girls were overweight.

The researchers said: 'Clearly dieting is not an innocuous behaviour that can be brushed aside as normative for teens.'

Date: May 1, 2006

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