Student Dietitians Perceptions and Beliefs of the Link Between Vegetarianism and Eating Disorders
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Background – Several studies have suggested there is a link between restrictive eating and eating disorders, in particular vegetarianism and orthorexia. Methods – A cross sectional study consisting of 29 student dietitians from Cardiff Metropolitan University completed an online questionnaire to gain quantitative and qualitative data. Their beliefs and opinions regarding the link between vegetarianism and eating disorders were analysed and compared against existing research. Results – 62% of participants agreed that vegetarianism has no more of a link with disordered eating than a diet containing meat. 58.2% of participants believed that a vegetarian diet had no similarities to an eating disorder and thought becoming a vegetarian was more due to animal welfare and ethics, although 45% non-vegetarians agreed, which was statistically significant. More participants disagreed that being a vegetarian teenage girl was putting them more at risk of developing an eating disorder, although those that did agree with the statement were predominantly young student dietitians (<25 years old). 48% participants agreed that vegetarians consider their health more than non-vegetarians, but with 72.4% disagreeing that they consider their appearance more than non-vegetarians. 55% participants agreed that both vegetarians could use their diet as a way of avoiding food in situations and it would be easier to hide an eating disorder due the restrictions needed on a vegetarian diet. Conclusions - The present study indicates that the beliefs and perceptions of the link between eating disorders and vegetarianism amongst student dietitians varies and further research is needed to allow knowledge around the topic to be more comprehensive.
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