TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Dieting at a young age might set the stage for harmful health habits, including eating disorders, according to new research.
Surveys of college-age women conducted from 1982 to 2012 also found a link between early dieting and later obesity and alcohol abuse.
"The younger a woman was when she started her first diet, the more likely she was [later] to use extreme weight control behaviors -- like vomiting or laxative misuse," said study researcher Lauren Holland, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Florida State University, Tallahassee.
"She was also more likely to misuse alcohol and be overweight or obese when she reached her 30s," Holland said.
The findings are scheduled for presentation this week at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in Seattle. Studies presented at medical meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
In 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012 researchers asked young women, nearly 20 years old on average, about their dieting behaviors. In all, more than 2,100 college students answered the initial questions. And more than 1,300 answered the follow-up questions a decade later.
Participants were asked if they dieted, how often, when they started, and what strategies they used, such as a low-fat or low-calorie plan.
The good news? Dieting declined slightly, and the average age to start dieting rose slightly, Holland said. In 1982, it was 14.6 years; by 2012, it was 15.4.
However, in each of the four groups, "we had some who were as young as 5," Holland said. This was uncommon, however.
In general, when initially questioned, these young women weren't overweight.
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