Women Who Begin Dieting Young Are More Likely to Become Obese by 30: Study

Dieting Young May Lead to Health Problems at an Older Age
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The United States is the most obese country in the world with 34% of the adult population classified as obese, according to the latest OECD survey.
The United States is the most obese country in the world with 34% of the adult population classified as obese, according to the latest OECD survey. Reuters

Inspired by the media hype for a perfect body and the celebrities they see and wish to be, many young girls start dieting early to keep their bodies in shape. While wanting to be fit and healthy at a young age is good, recent research shows that dieting at a young age can have a lot of negative consequences in the future.

The research that is going to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) found that the age at which a woman begins to diet is directly proportional to the age at which she would experience negative health outcomes. This means if a woman starts dieting at a very young age, there is more probability of her experiencing negative health consequences earlier in life.

In a craze to look thin and curvaceous, most women ignore the long-term consequences of weight loss diets, especially in those who start dieting early. At a young age, the body requires nutrition and vitamins, which are not provided due to the diets, and this has adverse impacts on the dieters' health at a later stage. To analyse how early dieting would affect health, lead researcher Dr Pamela Keel from Florida State University tracked college women's dieting history.  College women were asked in 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012 to report their dieting and weight history. The team then followed the women 10 years later and examined the impact of dieting history on their long-term health outcomes.

It was seen that women who were more likely to use extreme weight control behaviours, self-induced vomiting, misuse alcohol, and be overweight or obese when they reached their 30s, were  the same women who began dieting at a very young age. The researchers did not provide the reason for these outcomes, but they suggested that the study provided enough data on the impact of early age dieting on an individual's health. They said that discouraging weight loss diets in young girls may reduce risk for eating, alcohol, and weight-related problems in adulthood.

The study provided base for public health initiatives as well, so that they promote behaviours that encourage a healthy body rather than a slim body. It stressed more on an increase of physical activity, decrease in leisure time activities such as watching television and consumption of more fruits and vegetables. These advises must be given to the girls when they are in elementary school as it would support them as they enter puberty. This is the time when girls experience rapid growth, weight gain and a change in their bodies; unable to understand the changes, they may take to dieting to overcome them. This is what public health initiatives must help these girls understand.

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