A study published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association found a higher incidence of eating disorders among young girls who follow vegetarian diets. This isn’t news, and it’s not a concern for vegetarians, either.

Over the years, a number of studies have found that a relatively high number of girls with eating disorders are vegetarian. But there is no evidence that following a vegetarian diet causes eating disorders. It’s actually pretty silly to think that giving up meat could cause someone to develop anorexia!

Rather, it is likely that girls with eating disorders often choose vegetarian diets as one of many ways to control food intake and mask their eating disorder. Previous studies bear this out.

However, a number of news and food industry sites, including the industry website Food Navigator, placed their own spin on the story—suggesting that the study showed vegetarian girls to be at increased risk for problems like anorexia and bulimia. There is just no evidence that this is true.

Eating disorders are serious, and family members should watch for symptoms. Red flags include the following:

  • Refusal to eat, excuses for not eating, skipping meals
  • Extreme weight loss and denial of weight loss
  • Denial of hunger
  • Emotional apathy
  • Rigid meal and eating rituals
  • Repeated weighing
  • Complaining about being fat

    The Mayo Clinic offers a more comprehensive list. Vegetarian or vegan diets do not cause eating disordera!