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The study found that teenage females who diet and use unhealthy weight control behaviors are at three times the risk of being overweight.

Use of diet pills by teen girls nearly doubles

Nov. 7, 2006; also published in M, winter 2007

The use of diet pills by high school-aged females has nearly doubled over a five-year period from 7.5 percent to 14.2 percent, according to a recent study by the University's "Project EAT" (Eating Among Teens). Overall, the study found that 20 percent of the females surveyed had used diet pills by the age of 20.

"These numbers are startling, and they tell us we need to do a better job of helping our daughters feel better about themselves and avoid unhealthy weight control behaviors," said University of Minnesota professor and study researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer.

Over the five-year period, 1,386 female and 1,130 male teenagers were studied. The results also showed that 62.7 percent of teenage females use "unhealthy weight control behaviors" and 21.9 percent use "very unhealthy weight control behaviors." Very unhealthy weight control behaviors included the use of diet pills and laxatives as well as skipping meals and vomiting. Rates of unhealthy weight control behaviors for the teenage males were about half of those for females.

"We have found that teenage females who diet and use unhealthy weight control behaviors are at three times the risk of being overweight," said Neumark-Sztainer. "Teens who feel good about their bodies eat better and have less risk of being overweight. Parents can play a key role in helping their children to build a positive body image and engage in healthy eating and physical activity behaviors."

Speaking of physical activity, the study also revealed that by the teenage years, physical activity drops to only 3.93 hours per week for females, compared to 6.11 hours for males.

Neumark-Sztainer is author of the book, I'm, Like, So Fat! (2005 Guilford Press), which addresses the spectrum of weight-related problems in teens, identifies four cornerstones of healthy weight and body image, and gives readers practical guidance, from spotting an eating disorder to learning to talk effectively about food and fat.

--From University News Service