Teenage girls who diet are more likely to engage in other health-compromising behaviours, including smoking, binge-drinking and skipping breakfast, a University of Waterloo study recently found.
The researchers examined data from more than 3,300 high school girls in Ontario who participated in a longitudinal school-based study called COMPASS.
Compared to girls who were not dieting at the time of initial data collection, those who were dieting were more likely to engage in one or more clusters of other risky behaviours three years later.
The findings: Dieters were 1.6 times more likely to smoke and skip breakfast, and 1.5 times more likely to smoke and engage in binge drinking.
Dieting and other risky health behaviours may be related to common underlying factors, such as poor body image.
The researchers noted that “the link between dieting and other health-compromising behaviours is worrisome since 70 percent of girls reported dieting at some point over the three years”. “Post-puberty changes often lead to weight gain among girls and there is incredible pressure from social media and elsewhere to obtain and maintain the ideal body."
Dieting to lose weight is not something parents should necessarily encourage, especially among teenagers, since it's possible that well-meaning initiatives that promote dieting may be doing more harm than good.
Related: Dieting pressure in teens tied to weight problems in adulthood
Source: Canadian Journal of Public Health, February 2018.
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