[Diet or health--the linkage between vegetarianism and anorexia nervosa].Harefuah 2006; 145(7):526-31, 549H
Vegetarianism in its various forms, is widely encountered in different societies all over the world; thus, combining nutritional, social, behavioral and psychological aspects. The prevalence of vegetarianism in the western world, as well as in Israel, is dealt with in this review. The extent of vegetarianism among young patients with eating disorders is much higher than in any other age group. Anorexia nervosa patients in Israel admit to be vegetarians in 85% (mean), as compared to 65% (mean) in other western countries. The last three decades abound with nutritional messages concerning healthy life styles. Food Pyramids recommend meat avoidance as a remedy and promise for longevity. This reason for abstaining from meat has led to the adoption of vegetarian diets in grownups. All age groups have mastered the "Vegi" trend, and mostly young girls. They express feelings of disgust especially towards red meat. Despite the knowledge gained by the public about the linkage between diet and health, the proportion of patients suffering from eating disorders is rising. There seems to be a direct connection between the "Vegi" fashion of the teenagers and eating disorders which start typically in adolescence. Many surveys point to the abuse of vegetarianism as a mask for weight control. The vegetarian diet, a selective way of eating, might precede different eating disorders and increase the risk of developing anorexia nervosa.