Summary: According to researchers, teenaged girls who diet are more likely to embark on unhealthy behaviors, such as binge drinking, smoking and skipping meals.
Source: University of Waterloo.
Teenage girls who diet are more likely to engage in other health-compromising behaviours, including smoking, binge drinking, and skipping breakfast, a University of Waterloo study recently found.
The study 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 other 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 and is now a PhD candidate in Public Health and Health Systems. “Our findings suggest that dieting and other risky health behaviours may be related to common underlying factors, such as poor body image.
“The link between dieting and other health-compromising behaviours is worrisome since 70 percent of girls reported dieting at some point over the three years”, Raffoul added. “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.”
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,” Raffoul added. “Instead, we should focus on health broadly rather than weight as an indicator of health.”
The researchers examined data from more than 3,300 high school girls in Ontario who participated in a longitudinal school-based study called COMPASS.
“This study points to the importance of looking at factors related to health, including behaviours and the array of influences on them, in combination,” said Sharon Kirkpatrick, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems and co-author on the study, “Only by understanding the complex ways in which these factors interact can we identify effective interventions, as well as predict and monitor potential unintended effects of such interventions.”
Source: Matthew Grant – University of Waterloo
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Original Research: Abstract for “Dieting predicts engagement in multiple risky behaviours among adolescent Canadian girls: a longitudinal analysis” by Amanda Raffoul, Scott T. Leatherdale, and Sharon I. Kirkpatrick in Canadian Journal of Public Health. Published March 19 2018.
Dieting predicts engagement in multiple risky behaviours among adolescent Canadian girls: a longitudinal analysis
We investigated associations between dieting and other health-compromising behaviours among adolescent girls, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. The behaviours considered included smoking, binge drinking, and breakfast-skipping, and clusters of these.
Data for 3386 adolescent Ontario girls were drawn from COMPASS, a school-based study, which collects self-reported measures of weight, dieting, and other health-related factors. Multilevel logistic regression models were used to investigate relationships between dieting at baseline and smoking, binge drinking, and breakfast-skipping, as well as clusters of these behaviours at baseline and 2 years later.
Baseline dieters were at an elevated risk of smoking and binge drinking (RR = 1.8 and 1.5, respectively) by follow-up compared to non-dieters. Further, dieting was associated with combinations of these behaviours, with the highest risks for smoking/breakfast-skipping (RR = 1.64) and smoking/binge drinking (RR = 1.55). Over one in two (58%) girls reported dieting at baseline and four in five baseline dieters reported dieting 2 years later. Seven in ten girls were dieting at one or both time points. Baseline dieters were more likely to engage in a greater number of risky behaviours, regardless of what the actual behaviours were.
Dieting is longitudinally associated with engagement in other risky behaviours among adolescent girls. These findings suggest that dieting may be an early risk factor for engagement in other risky behaviours and highlight the need for comprehensive prevention strategies to target shared underlying drivers. In addition, attention is needed to the potential for well-meaning weight-related initiatives to promote dieting.