Dieting in teenage girls may be linked to smoking, binge drinking

A new study says that teenage girls who diet are more likely to engage in other risky behaviour, such as smoking and binge drinking.

fitness Updated: Jun 04, 2018 09:00 IST
Hindustan Times
Diet,Crash diet,Weight loss
Puberty could be to blame for the weight gain, which leads teens to go on a diet.(Shutterstock)

Extreme dieting is not just about losing weight, it could also indicate a tendency to engage in risky behaviour. A new study done by University of Waterloo in Canada suggests that teenage girls who diet are more likely to engage in other health-compromising behaviours, such as smoking and binge drinking.

The researchers found that compared to girls who were not dieting, at the time of initial data collection, those who were dieting were more likely to engage in one or more clusters of risky behaviours three years later. “It might seem natural for there to be a connection between dieting and behaviours such as smoking and skipping meals, but the explanation is not so clear for something like binge drinking,” said Amanda Raffoul, who led the study. “Our findings suggest that dieting and other risky health behaviours may be related to common underlying factors, such as poor body image,” he added.

Dieting and other risky health behaviours like smoking and drinking may be related to common underlying factors, such as poor body image. (Shutterstock)

The link between dieting and other health-compromising behaviours is worrisome since 70% of girls reported dieting at some point over the three years, observed Raffoul. Puberty could be to blame for the weight gain, which leads teens to go on a diet. “Post-puberty changes often lead to weight gain among girls and there is incredible pressure from social media and elsewhere to obtain and maintain the ideal body,” she said.

The study found dieters were 1.6 times more likely to smoke and skip breakfast, and 1.5 times more likely to smoke and engage in binge drinking. “Intentional weight loss is not something we should necessarily encourage, especially among this population, since it’s possible that well-meaning initiatives that promote dieting may be doing more harm than good. Instead, we should focus on health broadly rather than weight as an indicator of health,” said Raffoul.

Weight loss can result in worsening bone density. (Shutterstock)

Here are some of the other effects of crash dieting:

* A recent study shows that weight loss can result in worsening bone density, bone architecture and bone strength. The magnitude of changes to the skeleton were clinically significant and translated into an almost three-fold increase in the risk of fracture for those who lost 5% or more weight over 40 years.

* Dieting can make you lose friends. Research released by Nakd Wholefoods found that a third of people deliberately avoid those they know to be dieting and a quarter even trying to sabotage their friends’ bids to lose weight, reports femalefirst.co.uk.

* Losing weight rapidly by going on a crash diet or taking weight loss pills could also lead to heart problems and gallstones. It can lead to spells of dizziness due to the nutritional imbalance.

(With inputs from PTI)

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First Published: Jun 04, 2018 08:57 IST