Women May Risk Poor Health Later if They Diet Early

Dieting at early age increased risk for negative health outcomes later in life for young women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many women feel pressure to be thin at a young age. But dieting early in life may hurt their health later.

A recent study found that women who began dieting at a young age were more likely to experience negative health consequences like obesity or alcohol abuse later in life.

The researchers said public health initiatives to promote healthy habits in young women should begin in elementary school to support girls as they go through puberty.

"Talk to your daughter about healthy diet and exercise habits."

The lead author of this study was Pamela K. Keel, PhD, from the Department of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

The study included 1,794 college-aged women who were surveyed on their dieting and weight history between 1982 and 2012. Dr. Keel and team surveyed 624 women in 1982, 566 women in 1992, 542 women in 2002 and 462 women in 2012.

The researchers followed up every 10 years to look at the long-term health impact of dieting.

The findings showed that the frequency of dieting during young adulthood decreased in each group between 1982 and 2012.

The study authors discovered that, the younger a woman was when starting a diet, the more likely she was to abuse alcohol, be overweight or obese or engage in extreme weight-control behaviors like making herself vomit by the time she reached her 30s.

The researchers said public health initiatives should promote wellness and healthy choices in young girls. Healthy choices include exercising, spending less time on the computer or watching TV, and eating more fruits and vegetables.

The initiatives, the authors said, should start as early as elementary school to help support girls as they go through puberty — a time where they feel natural, rapid changes in their bodies.

This study was presented July 29 at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.

Studies presented at academic conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The National Institute of Mental Health provided funding for the research. The study authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 29, 2014
Last Updated:
July 30, 2014