More than 20% of teenaged girls exhibited unhealthy dieting behaviors in 2013, compared with slightly more than 10% of teenaged boys, according to findings recently published in BMC Public Health.
“Monitoring trends and associations of [unhealthy eating behaviors] over time is important to inform public health policies. The most recent data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System have not been used for this purpose,” Sarah N.M. Chin, department of primary care and public health at the Imperial College London, and colleagues wrote.
“Additionally, the majority of studies have focused on people with overweight and obesity and so there is a paucity of literature analyzing effects on underweight people.”
Researchers looked at 113,542 responses regarding unhealthy eating behaviors — vomiting/taking laxatives, fasting for more than 24 hours, and ingesting diet liquids/powders/pills — from the biennial survey for the period 1999 to 2013 for their analysis. Findings include:
- 22.7% of girls in 2013 (26.2% in 1999) exhibited at least one unhealthy dieting behavior to sustain or lose weight in the last 30 days.
- 10.1% of boys in 2013 (10.4% in 1999) exhibited at least one unhealthy dieting behavior to sustain or lose weight in the last 30 days.
- 15.9% of girls in 2013 (21.9% in 1999) overestimated their weight status.
- 6.1% of boys in 2013 (6.9% in 1999) overestimated their weight status.
- 25% of girls in 2013 (21.2% in 1999) underestimated their weight status.
- 40.2% of boys in 2013 (30.6% in 1999) underestimated their weight status.
Odds of unhealthy dieting behaviors were significantly higher in all except for those of normal weight and correct weight status perceivers.
Overestimation of weight status was the strongest determinant of unhealthy diet behaviors.
Rates of vomiting/taking laxatives, fasting for more than 24 hours, and racial disparities all stayed consistent during the study period.
“Current trends are concerning, and concerted action will be needed on a number of levels. Public health policies might aim for adolescents to improve weight status perception accuracy to potentially reduce inappropriate weight preoccupation and subsequently [unhealthy dieting behaviors],” the researchers wrote. – by Janel Miller
Chin reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors' relevant financial disclosures.