SAO PAULO: People who follow vegan diets have low risk of eating disorders, finds a study. The team at University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil used an online questionnaire to collect socio-demographic data (such as education, income and location, among others) and information on eating habits for 971 participants aged 18 or older from all parts of Brazil. Analysing the data, they were able to arrive at the percentage of vegan diet followers reporting dysfunctional dietary behaviour and therefore, risk for the development of eating disorders.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, found that only 0.6 per cent of almost 1,000 participants, or less than a tenth of the estimated proportion shows dysfunctional dietary behaviour.
“However, the results of the study absolve veganism of blame by showing that the presence of dysfunctional dietary behaviour is mainly associated with the reasons for dieting, rather than the type of diet,” said Hamilton Roschel, a professor at the Medical School (FM-USP) and head of the Applied Physiology and Nutrition Research Group.
“The fact that 62 per cent of the participants said their motivation for following a vegan diet was ‘ethics and animal rights’, whereas only 10 per cent cited ‘health reasons’, helps explain the low prevalence of dysfunctional dietary behaviour in the study sample.
“Understanding motivations for choosing a diet and the reasons for patients’ dietary choices helps us design more focused and effective nutritional care programs,” said Roschel.
The team also explained that they wanted to understand the motivations behind adhering to a vegan diet, and to identify any disordered eating attitudes among individuals who do so.
“Of course, nutritional adequacy and possible deficiencies in restrictive diets should also be analysed, but as far as mental health is concerned it’s clear that what matters most is understanding why individuals make their particular choices, monitoring their status, and if necessary referring them to a suitable specialist,” said Roschel. (IANS)