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Diets For Adolescents Increase Risk of Overweight

Dieting in Adolescence

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Diets For Adolescents Appear Counterproductive

Recent research indicates that children and adolescents (aged 9-14 years) who resort to restrictive dieting are at a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese than non-dieting adolescents.

Overweight Among Children and Teens

The findings concerning dieting in adolescence were presented at the 2000 meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO), against a background of rising obesity among children and teenagers. Study evidence from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute shows that 10-15 percent of US children and adolescents (aged 6-17 years) are overweight - twice the reported rate in previous surveys.

Findings of Adolescent Dieting Study

The study (1996-1998) investigated the weight change patterns of frequent dieters compared to those of infrequent dieters and non-dieters. Subjects included 5,865 girls and 4,322 boys aged 9-14 years. The findings included the following: (1) Of those children who were normal weight in 1996 and 1997, 28 percent of girls and 6.7 percent of boys had followed weight loss diets in the previous year. (2) Normal weight female dieters were significantly more likely than non-dieters to indulge in binge eating at least monthly (.5% never dieters vs. 3.1% infrequent dieters vs. 12.5% frequent dieters). (3) During the period 1997-1998, 2.7 percent of all girls and 5.2 percent of all boys became overweight. (4) Irrespective of their calorie-intake, fat-intake or carbohydrate-intake, or their level of physical activity, the frequent dieters were significantly more likely to become overweight than those who never dieted.

Why Dieting Increases Risk of Overweight Among Young People

In a nutshell, adolescents tend to turn to impractical or non-sustainable diets. After the inevitable "failure", they resort to overeating or binge-eating. Researchers suggested that greater efforts be made to educate adolescent children to increase physical activity and make healthier food choices rather than resort to diets which typically are unsustainable.

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