Weight Concerns in Teens

New research finds the use of extremely unhealthy weight loss methods by teens is “alarmingly high.” These extreme measures include taking diet pills, laxatives, diuretics or vomiting. This study of nearly 5,000 Minnesota teens looked at the eating patterns and weight concerns among this group.

As predicted, weight concerns were prevalent among teens. Unhealthy behaviors such as binge eating were reported by 57 percent of girls and 33 percent of boys. Extreme behaviors were prevalent among 12 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys. Overweight adolescents were responsible for most of the extreme habits. Nearly 20 percent of the overweight girls reported taking pills or vomiting.

The researchers write, “Obesity among children and adolescents has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.” They say obesity is currently one of the “greatest contemporary public health issues.” The researchers say they were surprised to find that while girls were more likely to report weight concerns, large numbers of boys reported concerns with weight as well.

A high percentage of girls reported being unhappy with their bodies and perceived themselves as overweight. The researchers say all of these findings suggest doctors and public health officials need to be very concerned with the high rate of dieting among youth and particularly among young girls. They say presently most methods aimed at preventing and treating obesity among adolescents focus on increasing exercise and decreasing calories. They recommend officials begin to educate youth on bad eating habits and teach them how to maintain a healthy weight.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 2002;156:171-178

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