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This article investigates the links between vegetarianism and weight control behaviors of 2,516 youths between the ages of 15-25. Participants answered a 2004 mail-in survey. The study found that current and former vegetarianism is related to unhealthy eating behaviors, including binge eating.
About 4% of respondents identified as vegetarian and about 11% were former vegetarians. However, when asked about specific eating habits, 46% reported consuming fish, and 25% reported consuming chicken. These semi-vegetarians were more likely than strict vegetarians to report using vegetarianism as a way to control weight.
The study authors conclude: "Adolescent and young adult vegetarians may experience the health benefits associated with increased fruit and vegetable intake and young adults may experience the added benefit of decreased risk for overweight and obesity. However, current vegetarians may be at increased risk for binge eating with loss of control, while former vegetarians may be at increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors. It would be beneficial for clinicians to inquire about current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors."
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