Among girls without an eating disorder diagnosis, those who use diet tablets and laxatives for weight control had greater chances of getting a subsequent first eating disorder medical diagnosis within one to 3 years than those who did not report utilizing these products, according to a new research study led by scientists from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Kid’s Health center.
“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,” said senior author S. Bryn Austin, professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Chan School and director of STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders). “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.”
Use of over the counter diet pills or laxatives is not suggested by healthcare providers as a healthy way to lose weight and can have severe health effects, including hypertension and liver and kidney damage.
The researchers examined data from 10,058 ladies and women ages 14 to 36 who took part in the U.S.-based Growing Up Today Research Study (GUTS) from 2001 to 2016.
They discovered that amongst individuals without an eating disorder, 1.8% of those who utilized diet pills throughout the past year reported getting a first eating disorder medical diagnosis during the next one to three years compared to 1% of those who did not utilize the items. They also discovered that among these individuals, 4.2% of those who utilized laxatives for weight control received a subsequent first eating disorder diagnosis compared to 0.8% of those who did not utilize these items for weight control.
The researchers required policies that limit access to these products, consisting of banning the sale of diet plan pills to minors. They compose that use of these products for weight control might act as a “gateway” to further disordered consuming practices by dysregulating normal gastrointestinal function and cultivating dependence on unhealthy and inefficient coping methods.
“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,” said first author Jordan Levinson, clinical research assistant, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital. “It’s time for retailers and policymakers to take the dangers of these products seriously and take steps to protect youth.”