A University of Minnesota study has found that eating disorders often stay with adolescents into young adulthood and beyond.
The results are based on data gathered from more than 2,200 young men and women from the Twin Cities, whose eating behaviors were tracked over a 10-year period of time.
The study examined the prevalence of dieting and unhealthy weight control measures such as self-induced vomiting and the use of diet pills and laxatives.
"The high prevalence of these behaviors during adolescence did not generally decrease when these youth reached young adulthood," said Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, who led the study. "In fact we found that most of these behaviors in most of the age and sex groups either stayed constant or increased."
Neumark-Sztainer said among females, a little over 8 percent reported using diet pills when the study began in 1999.
"This number increased 10 years later to 20.4 percent," she said. "So a fifth of the female participants in early young adulthood reported the use of diet pills. That's concerning."
Among males, extreme weight control behaviors increased from 2 percent to over 7 percent during the 10-year study period. Neumark-Sztainer said the findings suggest that earlier intervention is need to combat eating disorders in youth.
The findings are published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.