Is being vegetarian bad for one’s health?

Recent study finds that teen vegetarians may have a higher risk of developing eating problems

WRITTEN BY: Janelle Vreeland
Is being vegetarian bad for one’s health?

The word vegetarian is almost analogous to the adjective "kind" to some, seeing as vegetarians are viewed as people who don't guzzle down some animal flesh or other with every meal. Maybe their kindness all this while is why vegetarians are usually less associated with "calorie-ful" life-threatening diseases such as obesity and diabetes than their meat-eating contemporaries.

Alas, something is amiss in the karmic cycle. A recent study by the American Dietetic Association found that people who are currently vegetarian are more likely to binge-eat and take unhealthy measures to control their weight, as compared to non-vegetarians.

In addition to the new findings, those who formerly were vegetarian showed an increase in using extra measures, including diet pills and laxatives, to control weight, the report stated.

However, the study did conclude that, yes, vegetarian young adults were less likely to be overweight or obese, and more likely to eat a more healthy diet. This study, conducted in Minnesota, had 2,516 male and female respondents aged between 15 - 23 years.

ABCNews.com reported on Wednesday that the study's new findings might be due to the fact that some young adults have turned to vegetarianism as a way of a controlled diet. Weight conscious teens might hide under a cloak of vegetarianism to stay away from sinful lunches like a Big Mac, for instance.

The article pointed out that "with unhealthy eating behaviors, restrictive eating goes even a step further," reasoning that "if teens are motivated more by weight than by health, they may end up cutting back their calories to dangerous levels -- or bingeing and purging."

The responsibility now falls on the parents and dietitians to engage in an open and honest conversation with a young adult opting to become a vegetarian. They should talk about the reasons why the teen has chosen to become a vegetarian, possible scenarios in food intake behavior and alternative food options to ensure that the teen is aware of substitute food for certain nutrition that only comes with meat.

Solutions at this micro level will be the ones most effective if we want to keep our teens healthy and safe because by doing this, we can be sure of the state of mind and motive of the teen doing it. This will in turn help the parent or doctor decide what is best for the teen.

Being vegetarian comes with many benefits yet it also carries a ton of responsibilities. Young adults should be aware that resorting to vegetarianism to lose weight or look hotter for the summer is one decision that is not wise. To ensure young adults get this realization, parents, schools and doctors should advocate for 'safe vegetarianism' and allocate resources to assist teens who are grappling with these issues. 

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