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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Vegetarianism and Teens

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Is vegetarianism a new eating disorder? A new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests the vegetarianism is not always healthy, and may be used as a socially acceptable way to mask an eating disorder.

The study found that adolescent and young adult vegetarians were less likely than meat eaters (30% were heavy) to be overweight (only 17% were heavy) and more likely to eat a healthy diet (with < 30% of calories from fat), they were also more likely to binge eat(20% compared to 5% for the meat eaters), and were more interested in losing weight than protecting animals.

It is also true that teens with eating disorders are more likely to practice vegetarianism than those without eating disorders, and the most common reason for vegetarianism is weight control. In fact, in this study, about one quarter of the current or former vegetarians reported having taken diet pills or laxatives and having forced themselves to throw up compared to less than one out of ten meat eaters.

I suggest that if your teen decides to become a vegetarian, you pay attention to his or her diet, seek the counsel of a trained nutritionist, and help your child eat a balanced and healthy diet. Teen vegetarians need to work on getting enough vitamin D, calcium, protein, and iron.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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