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A Study on Orthorexia Nervosa: When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

Poulami Dasgupta, Ranjana Mahana, Archana Bhagat

Abstract


Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is a new eating disorder described as an obsession for healthy eating.  Recently individuals exhibiting different ‘‘highly sensitive eating behavior disorders” are increasing with the increased consciousness about various diseases globally and the role of diet in their prevention. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to identify individuals with obsessive eating behavior. Sample included 30 nutrition professionals and 30 non-nutrition professionals (n=60; all graduates and above). ORTO 15 test was administered to diagnose Orthorexia. Data were collected for sociodemographic variables, anthropometric profile, weight management attempts, smoking behavior, alcohol consumption, knowledge about balanced diet, choice of food and physical activity. Dietary data were collected using Food Frequency Questionnaire and 24-hour dietary recall and were analysed for mean daily intake of energy, protein and fats. An Emotional Eating Scale (EES) test was administered to study the eating behavior of the subjects in response to different emotions. About 56.66% of the total subjects were orthorexic and 60% of the nutritionists showed orthorexic behavior. Majority of the orthorexics (47.05%) were <25 years of age, and were primarily females (70.59%). 11.76% orthorexics were underweight which might be a result of their obsessive behavior. 70.59% of orthorexics followed a regimented diet (p=0.056*) as compared to a lesser percentage (46.15%) of nonorthorexics; showed controlled temptation even towards their favorite foods if those were presumed to be unhealthy. Higher percentage of orthorexics preferred healthier options like fruits and sandwiches to fried foods and namkeens between the meals. 79.41% orthorexics avoided fried foods (p=0.069*); 64.71% of them consumed at least one serving of fruit everyday compared to 53.85% of the nonorthorexics reflecting healthy eating choices. Saturated fat was avoided by most of the orthorexics. While eating out, 91.18% orthorexics did not order food out of peer pressure (p=0.001**) if it was perceived unhealthy. Mean daily intake of energy for the orthorexic males and females was lesser as compared to the nonorthorexics.

 

Keywords:  obesity, orthorexic, health, depression, emotional eating scale (EES)

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