Consuming diet pills and laxatives linked to eating disorder diagnosis

A gateway to eating disorders.


Many ladies turn to diet pills or laxatives when they’re looking to lose weight fast. However, there are serious concerns over the safety and effectiveness of consuming diet pills and laxatives for weight loss.

Laxatives have become a popular method of weight loss. Many people believe that using laxatives can help increase the frequency of bowel movements and allow for quick, easy, and effortless weight loss. But, the truth of their safety and effectiveness is a serious concern.

A new study shed light on this concern and found that girls and young women who use diet pills and laxatives to control their weight are at increased risk for eating disorders.

Scientists from Harvard Gazette conducted the study, which suggests- consuming diet pills has higher odds of having a first such diagnosis within one to three years than those who did not report using these products.

Scientists analyzed the data from more than 10,000 girls and women, aged 14 to 36, from 2001 to 2016. They used multivariable logistic regression models, adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, and overweight status to estimate the association between weight-control behaviors and subsequent eating disorder diagnosis.

Among those who initially did not have an eating disorder, 1.8% of those who used diet pills in the past year said they received their first eating disorder diagnosis over the next one to three years, compared to 1% of those who did not use diet pills.

The researchers also found that 4.2% of those who used laxatives for weight control were subsequently diagnosed with their first eating disorder, compared to 0.8% of those who did not use laxatives for weight control.

Senior author S. Bryn Austin, a professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Chan School and director of STRIPED, said, “We’ve known that diet pills and laxatives when used for weight control can be very harmful substances. We wanted to find out if these products could be a gateway behavior that could lead to an eating order diagnosis.”

“Our findings parallel what we’ve known to be true with tobacco and alcohol: Starting harmful substances can set young people on a path to worsening problems, including serious substance-abuse disorder.”

The study strictly recommends that policymakers and public health professionals should develop and evaluate policy initiatives to reduce or prohibit access to diet pills and laxatives abused for weight control.

First author Jordan Levinson, clinical research assistant, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, said, “Our findings are a wake-up call about the serious risks of these products. Instagram took a step in the right direction recently by banning ads to minors for over-the-counter diet pills and ‘detox’ teas, which are often laxatives.”

“It’s time for retailers and policymakers to take the dangers of these products seriously and take steps to protect youth.”

The study was published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

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