Restrained Eating and Vegetarianism in College Females

In 2009, I blogged about a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that showed that people aged 15-23 who called themselves vegetarian had a higher rate of disordered eating. The study had a strong propensity to detect that vegetarians have disordered eating as their definition of “vegetarian” included people who eat fish and chicken, were only vegetarian for one month, and their definition of “disordered eating” was very broad. I suggested that better designed studies were desirable before any conclusions could be drawn.

Today, a well-designed study was released on-line (ahead of print), by the journal Appetite, and the results were better than I would have expected (Forestell, 2011).

Researchers from The College of William & Mary divided female college students into the following groups:

Vegetarian – 14 of 55 were vegan
Pesco-vegetarian – eat fish but no other meat
Semi-vegetarian – eat chicken and fish but no read meat
Flexitarian – cutting back on red meat
Omnivore – not limiting animal products

Their eating habits and attitudes were surveyed with a battery of questions at baseline and then again one year later.

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The results were that vegetarians and pesco-vegetarians did not score higher than omnivores for restrictive eating behavior, whereas the semi-vegetarians and flexitarians did. The authors concluded, “It appears that semi-vegetarians and flexitarians specifically, may be more likely to experiment with restriction of animal products as a form of weight control than vegetarians and pesco-vegetarians.”


Forestell CA, Spaeth AM, Kane SA. To eat or not to eat red meat. A closer look at the relationship between restrained eating and vegetarianism in college females. Appetite. 2011 Nov 2.   |   Link

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