Teens Hide Eating Disorders With Vegetarianism: Study

Veggie diets can mask unhealthy behaviors
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2009 3:07 PM CDT
Sean Meagher works on a vegetable display in the produce department of a Kroger store in Cincinnati.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Many teens dabble with vegetarianism, and the choice is usually accepted by parents as a mild form of rebellion. But a new study suggests some use vegetarianism to hide an eating disorder, Time reports. Researchers found that 20% to 25% of current and former vegetarians had engaged in binge eating or extreme dieting such as laxative pills or forced vomiting—compared to only 5% of meat eaters.

While more likely to engage in eating-disorder behaviors, vegetarians ate somewhat healthier diets and were less likely to be overweight than omnivores. Vegetarianism is a useful cloak because it is a socially acceptable reason to decline eating many foods, researchers say. They recommend that parents and doctors pay extra attention to any teen who suddenly becomes a vegetarian.