Dieting and unhealthy eating practices that begin in adolescence often continue into young adulthood, a new study finds.
"The findings from the current study argue for early and ongoing efforts aimed at the prevention, early identification, and treatment of disordered eating behaviors in young people," commented lead investigator from the University of Minnesota, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD.
Using data from Project EAT-III (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults), a 10-year longitudinal study aimed at examining eating, activity, and weight-related variables among young people, researchers examined the records for 1,030 young men and 1,257 young women.
One third of participants (29.9 percent) were in early adolescence at the beginning of the study and were in early young adulthood at the 10-year follow-up. Two thirds of participants (70.1 percent) were in middle adolescence at the beginning and were in middle young adulthood after 10 years.
The prevalence of dieting remained fairly constant from adolescence through young adulthood for females in both age groups.
Among males, the prevalence of dieting stayed constant over time in the younger age cohort, but significantly increased in the older cohort as they progressed from middle adolescence to middle young adulthood.
In the younger females, unhealthy weight control behaviors remained constant from early adolescence to early young adulthood.
Among older females, unhealthy weight control behaviors showed a statistically significant decrease from middle adolescence to middle young adulthood, but still remained very high.
The study will be published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.