A study released today by the University of Minnesota's "Project EAT" (Eating Among Teens) shows startling results of 2,500 female teenagers studied over a five-year period. The study found that high school-aged females' use of diet pills nearly doubled from 7.5 to 14.2 percent. By the ages of 19 and 20, 20 percent of females surveyed used diet pills.
"These numbers are startling, and they tell us we need to do a better job of helping our daughters feel better about themselves and avoid unhealthy weight control behaviors," U of M professor and study researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer said.
Other results from the study include:
- 62.7 percent of teenage females use "unhealthy weight control behaviors"
- 21.9 percent of teenage females use "very unhealthy weight control behaviors"
Very unhealthy weight control behaviors include the use of diet pills, laxatives, vomiting or skipping meals. Of the 2,500 teenage males studied, their rates were half of the females'.
"We have found that teenage females who diet and use unhealthy weight control behaviors are at three times the risk of being overweight," said Neumark-Sztainer. "Teens who feel good about their bodies eat better and have less risk of being overweight. Parents can play a key role in helping their children to build a positive body image and engage in healthy eating and physical activity behaviors."
The study also shows that by teenage years, females' physical activity drops dramatically to only 3.93 hours per week, whereas males in the same age group spend 6.11 hours.
Neumark-Sztainer is also author of the book, "I'm, Like, So Fat!" (2005 Guilford Press). She has been featured nationally as an expert in her field and is available nationwide to discuss the study and teen eating.
Project EAT was designed to investigate the factors influencing eating habits of adolescents, to determine if youth are meeting national dietary recommendations and to explore dieting and physical activity patterns among youth. Through a greater understanding of the socioeconomic, personal and behavioral factors associated with diet and weight-related behavior during adolescence more effective nutrition interventions can be developed.
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