Researchers say that vegetarians may have a healthier diet, but they are at an increased risk of having eating disorders.
Researchers from at University of Minnesota, University of Texas and St. John's University have revealed that while vegetarians tend to eat healthier diets and are less likely than non-vegetarians to be overweight or obese, they may be at increased risk for binge eating with loss of control.
In addition, former vegetarians may be at increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
Examples of extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors included "took diet pills," "made myself vomit," "used laxatives" and "used diuretics."
While analyzing more than 2,500 males and females aged 15-23, the research team found that vegetarian adolescents and young adult were more likely to report binge eating with loss of control compared to non-vegetarians.
"Adolescent and young adult vegetarians may experience the health benefits associated with increased fruit and vegetable intake and young adults attain the added benefit of decreased risk for overweight and obesity," said researchers.
"However, vegetarians may be at increased risk for disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating and unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
"Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors.
"Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning it may also be important to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet," they added.
The findings appear in Journal of the American Dietetic Association.