Science

Teenage girls, and increasingly boys, dieting to stay thin: study

While eating less, purging and exercising to stay slim are still largely the preoccupations of teenage girls, teenage boys are starting to follow suit, finds a new study.

Black teenage girls the least likely to diet, purge or exercise to lose weight, study finds

While eating less, purging and exercising to stay slimare still largely the preoccupations of teenage girls, teenage boys are increasingly following suit, a sweeping new U.S. study has found.

Researchersfound that between 1995 and 2005, 54 per cent of girls in their study reported they dieted,while 10 per centsaidthey useddiet products, eight per cent admitted to purging, 67 per cent exercised, and 43 per cent exercised vigorously to lose weight.

And among male teenagers, the researchers found that the prevalence of weight-control behaviours rose.Over the same time period, 24 per cent of boys overallreported that they dieted —with theprevalence rising almost every year in the 10-year study period.

The researchers, at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., studied data from 1995 to 2005 gleaned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via a biennial survey of high-school students in grades nine to 12. The data were self-reported, with students categorizing themselves as "white," "black" or "Hispanic" in questionnaires.

The findings were published Oct. 29 ahead of print in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Among boys, four per cent reported they used diet drugs,3 per cent said they purged, 47 per cent said they exercised and 37 per cent said they exercised vigorously.

"Considering that males have negative attitudes toward treatment-seeking and are less likely than females to seek treatment, efforts should be made to increase awareness of eating disorder symptomatology in male adolescents, and future prevention efforts should target male as well as female adolescents," the authors say.

Racial differences noted

In terms of racial breakdown, fifty-eight per cent of girls who identified as Caucasian, 52 per cent of Hispanic girls and 38 per cent of black girls reported they dieted.

"When examining dieting behaviour by ethnicity, significantly fewer black females than white or Hispanic females dieted for weight control," the authors write.

Similar trends were found with respect to use of diet drugs, purging and exercise. Eleven per cent of Caucasian girls,six per cent of black girls and 10 per cent of Hispanic girls used diet drugs;eight per cent of Caucasian girls,five per cent of black girls andnine per cent of Hispanic girls admitted purging; and 70 per cent of Caucasian girls, 53 per cent of black girls and 65 per cent of ofHispanic girls exercised.

"The result is consistent with findings that black females have flexible concepts of beauty and emphasize 'making what you've got work for you' and are thus more satisfied and comfortable with their bodies," the study reads.

But when it came to trends among teenage boys, the researchers found a different pattern. They discovered thatCaucasian boys were least likely and Hispanic boys the most likely to practice weight control.

While 23 per cent of Caucasian and 21 per cent of black boys dieted, 30 per cent of Hispanic boys admitted to the practice. They were also more likely to use diet products (six per cent) versusfour per cent for blacks and Caucasian boys; toexercise (54 per cent versus 45 per cent for blacks and 46 per cent for Caucasians) and exercise vigorously (41 per cent versus 36 per cent for blacks and 37 per cent for Caucasians).

The authors say this could be due to Hispanic teenage boys carrying more weight than their Caucasian or black counterparts.

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