'Clean Eating’ can be Dangerous for Young People

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • Clean eating is the new dietary trend among teenagers
  • Social media, health and food bloggers, and athletes are promoting clean eating which may have a negative impact on young people
  • Orthorexia is an eating disorder in which the sufferer eats food believed to be healthy
  • Teenage girls are more likely to suffer from orthorexia than boys
Clean eating is the latest dietary practice more common among teenagers, which makes them extremely thin or even causes death in extreme cases. Being watchful of what gets inside the body is good, but when it turns into an obsession, it can be dangerous. In the recent years, people have become obsessed over choosing foods in their whole, natural state, avoiding processed foods. Some people tend to completely avoid certain food groups such as dairy and wheat products. This can have a negative impact on health and cause nutritional deficiencies and diseases. According to Dietitians', clean diets are often expensive and unsustainable.
'Clean Eating’ can be Dangerous for Young People

According to a study published in the British Nutrition Foundation, one in ten teenagers is at risk of nutritional deficiencies, with half of teenage girls falling short on iron and one in five at risk of inadequate calcium.

‘Clean eating is gaining popularity from social media, food and health blogs. This practice is more common among teenage girls than boys.’
Is Clean Eating an Obsession?

Clean eating is popularized by food and health bloggers, celebrities, athletes, and social media. Medical experts have warned that clean eating can have a negative impact on certain vulnerable young people. Clean eating diets tend to discourage the consumption of certain foods and results in nutritional deficiencies.

Rhiannon Lambert, a Registered Associate Nutritionist in London, said that she had encountered people who are obsessed over where the food comes from. "People become obsessed with eating habits. They do not eat food while walking because they think that food can only be processed when they are seated. All this interferes with general life and becomes an obsession."

"Young people lose sleep over this and cannot afford the lifestyle needed to maintain it. Health bloggers can be unqualified and offer dangerous advice. Not all of them want to impose their lifestyle on others, but lots of them do and they often give advice on clean eating with no scientific backing," said Lambert.

"The books come along; the products come along and these people are now role models whose every word will inspire impressionable young people. I have clients who think they have to be vegan to be successful," she added.

There is no official statistics for the number of children and young people who follow clean eating practices. But, according to psychologists and nutritionists, there is a surge in the number of youngsters, especially girls who practice clean eating.

Disadvantages of Clean Eating
  • Eliminating certain foods causes nutritional deficiencies
  • Expensive and unsustainable
  • People may overeat when eating clean
There has been a rise in the number of people who suffer from an eating disorder due to the fact that "clean eating" had doubled in the last year, said Lambert, who treats 180 patients a year. The extreme form of this is psychological condition is called as orthorexia Nervosa.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder in which people become more obsessed with eating to improve their health. The word Orthorexia comes from the Greek word 'orthos' meaning right and correct and 'orexis' meaning appetite. People who suffer from this psychological condition take healthy eating to extremes and develop specific food rules. Orthorexia is similar to anorexia or bulimia nervosa, but people with anorexia are concerned with the quantity of food consumed, whereas people with orthorexia are concerned with the quality.

Young people who suffer from Orthorexia Nervosa are more concerned about eating healthy and less focused on losing weight. Orthorexics have obsessive behaviors such as self-induced dietetic limitations and become fixated on food quality and purity. As orthorexia progresses and develops, it can cause malnutrition from dietary restrictions, social isolation and emotional instability.

Ursula Philpot, Dietitian, said, "A fixation with eating healthily had been a noticeable route into eating disorders for vulnerable individuals in the past couple of years." Social media and blogs are the key drivers of the trend. Orthorexia affects girls more than boys, although boys are much more affected than previously, she added.

The foods people worry about eating has changed over the years. Gluten and dairy are the top most of most people's lists of bad foods. The condition begins as an attempt to eat healthily, but people become fixated on food quality and purity. Eating disorders are serious psychological illnesses. Studies have shown that they may be more biologically based than previously thought, but social and environmental factors also play a part, said Philpot.

  1. Orthorexia nervosa - when healthy eating is no longer healthy - (
  2. Orthorexia Nervosa - (
  3. Orthorexia Nervosa: Taking Clean-Eating to an Obsessive Level - (
Source: Medindia

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