HealthDay News — Dieting earlier in life may set young female patients up for extreme weight control measures and other negative health behaviors later in life, according to a study presented at the meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, held in Seattle.

“Dieting is very common among girls and young women; however, people often fail to consider the long-term consequences of weight-loss diets, particularly in those who begin dieting at a young age,” wrote Lauren A. Holland, of Florida State University in Tallahassee, and colleagues.

To examine trends in specific dieting strategies from 1982 to 2012 in young women, the investigators analyzed survey data from a sample of college-aged female patients in 1982 (n=624), 1992 (n=566), 2002 (n=542), and 2012 (n=462).

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Longitudinal outcomes were examined using information from a subset of the sample for which 10-year follow-up data were available (n=1,340 patients).

Specific dieting strategies have followed a fad-like trend. Over the study period, dieting frequency in young adulthood declined across cohorts (P<0.001), while age of dieting onset increased across cohorts (P=0.035). Age of dieting onset longitudinally predicted use of extreme weight control behaviors 10 years later (P=0.02).

Lower age of dieting onset additionally predicted greater alcohol consumption (P<0.01) and alcohol misuse (P<0.05), as well as greater chance of being overweight or obese (P<0.05) at 10-year follow-up.

“While the cause of these outcomes is not determined here, discouraging weight-loss diets in young girls may reduce risk for eating, alcohol, and weight-related problems in adulthood,” wrote the researchers.

“Public health initiatives should promote behaviors that increase wellness in girls, such as increasing activity, decreasing leisure time watching TV and on computers, and consuming more fruits and vegetables.”


  1. Holland L et al. “Secular and longitudinal trends in dieting strategies in young adult women from 1982 to 2012: Implications for use of extreme weight control behaviors, alcohol misuse, and weight status 10-years later.” Presented at SSIB 2014. July 29-August 2; Seattle, Wash.