Exercise (Not Diet) Best for Overweight Teens

LONDON, March 19, 1999 -- The best means to tackle obesity in young people is to encourage them to exercise rather than go on a diet, say researchers from Australia.

This advice is based on a study of nearly 2,000 boys and girls 14- 15 years old conducted by Dr. George Patton and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne and the Royal Children's Hospital Research Institute. The results of their study is in this week's British Medical Journal.

Adolescent girls who strictly dieted were 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia than girls who didn't diet.

Additionally, girls who dieted moderately were 5 times more at risk for an eating disorder than girls who didn't diet. About two- thirds of new eating disorders arose in girls who dieted moderately.

Dieting was the most important predictor of new eating disorders. The difference in the prevalence of disorders between boys and girls was largely accounted for by the high rates of dieting at a younger age in girls.

In adolescents, controlling weight by exercise rather than diet restriction seems to lower the risk of developing an eating disorder.

Source: Patton GC, Selzer R, Coffey C, Carlin JB, Wolfe R: Onset of adolescent eating disorders: population based cohort study over 3 years. BMJ 1999;318:765-768 (20 March).


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