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Extreme Dieting in Teens Often Intensifies in Adulthood

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Extreme dieting behaviors often begin in the teen years and worsen in adulthood, a new study finds.

Unhealthy weight-control behaviors -- such as purging and fasting -- are associated with problems later in life, including eating disorders, depression and substance abuse, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.

"Our findings show that the use of unhealthy weight control behaviors is not limited to the period of adolescence, but these behaviors continue to have a high prevalence 15 years later," study co-author Dianne Neumark-Sztainer said in a university news release. She's a professor in the School of Public Health.

For the study, the researchers asked 1,455 adults about their dieting practices. Rates of dieting rose over time among both sexes, the findings showed.

Among men, for instance, rates of high-frequency dieting (five or more times a year) and extreme forms of weight control, such as purging and using diet pills, increased from young adulthood (age 25) into adulthood (age 31).

Among both women and men, dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviors that began before young adulthood were more likely to continue than stop in adulthood, the researchers discovered.

About 20 percent of the participants said they started dieting as adults. Meanwhile, one in five women said they stopped unhealthy weight control behaviors in adulthood.

Study leader Ann Haynos explained that "a lot of interventions and programs are geared toward younger people, so there's likely an unmet need for interventions aimed at stopping problematic weight control in adults."

Haynos, an assistant professor of psychiatry, is conducting further research to learn more about what leads to unhealthy weight control behaviors in adults.

The findings were published recently in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more on weight management.

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