This article purports that vegetarianism has a dark side. A vile and tempestuous leaning away from the light of “health” in the way of masking eating disorders:
Despite its proven health benefits, a vegetarian diet might in fact be masking an underlying eating disorder, new research suggests.
Okay well let’s go on then, what else is there to report? How are you going to move on from that statement to back it up? With solid research? A new bit of reasoning that suggests perhaps encouraging children to focus exclusively on weight might, perhaps, have an affect on their psychological well-being and might trigger an eating disorder leading to or perhaps stemming from extreme vegetarianism? Oh no? More of the same old tropes? With self-reported studies and biased opinions on what un-collected data MIGHT have been if it HAD been collected?? Oh. All right then…
“Adolescents practicing vegetarianism were less likely to be overweight than their omnivorous counterparts and, were the measures available, would likely have had better blood pressure and cholesterol, too,” he said. “Eating mostly plants — and even only plants — is good for us, and certainly far better for health than the typical American diet.” (emphasis mine)
The above quote comes from a lovely Dr. Kat who had no role in the research but insists that if this self-reported survey of teens (Participants completed a mailed survey and food frequency questionnaire in 2004) had actually taken a measure of ACTUAL HEALTH MARKERS (you know, like blood pressure, cholesterol, etc…all those pesky NON-WEIGHT numbers) then of COURSE the lower-weight teens would have been healthier by those markers too than their fatter non-eating disordered (or at least non-vegetarian) counterparts. Riiiight.
Now I’ll leave the citation to the study at the end of this post for you to review yourself since I am not a top science guru able to quickly and deftly rip apart the research papers to get at the meat of the actual study results. Though I will say that just reading the start of the article is enough for me to realize that the entirety of the “Dark Side of Vegetarianism” piece is based solely on the paper’s abstract.
I’m not much of a statistician either but this is a bit telling to me as well:
The present study included 108 (4.3%) current vegetarians, 268 (10.8%) former vegetarians, and 2,112 (84.9 %) participants identified as never vegetarian. Among the current vegetarians, the majority were female (76.5%) (Emphasis mine)
So any conclusions drawn about “vegetarians are 20% more this than that” is based on 108 out of 2,516 people. Interesting as well just how HIGH a majority of the participants indicating current vegetarian status are female: hello to “media portrayals of women as NEVER thin enough” anyone? Also wanted to point out an interesting observation of their “Weight status tables” in relation to the quote that vegetarians are less likely to be “overweight”:
Current Vegetarians: 25.0
Former Vegetarians: 23.7
Never Vegetarians: 24.0
Current Vegetarians: 23.3
Former Vegetarians: 24.4
Never Vegetarians: 25.0
Current Vegetarians: 22.3
Former Vegetarians: 26.4
Never Vegetarians: 29.1
Current Vegetarians: 16.8
Former Vegetarians: 20.1
Never Vegetarians: 28.2
Current Vegetarians: 13.3
Former Vegetarians: 10.0
Never Vegetarians: 10.8
Current Vegetarians: 5.8
Former Vegetarians: 10.7
Never Vegetarians: 14.0
Sooo…. Current young vegetarians seem, from this data, to be higher on the BMI AND percentage of obese (despite the yahoo article’s assurance that: “The study found, for instance, that the vegetarians among the participants generally were less likely to be overweight or obese.” (You know, unless you look at the actual data….). Though, to be fair, there was a whole 10% difference in the older participants who were overweight or obese.
Then again I’m not “correcting” for the other variables (like unicorn or dragon status, Magic Mass Iindex numbers, nonfiction or fiction reader dichotomy), just going on the data given (which HAS been adjusted for socioeconomic status, sex, and race according to the table footnotes) but it does seem that the only numbers that lend any credence to the research “conclusions” that vegetarians are lighter than their non-veggie counterparts is the Percentage Overweight category (in both age groups) and Obese for older participants.
So when someone generalizes and says “Vegetarians are lighter. Generally.” It means “Not really. Or maybe kinda a little but whatever, fatties are bad!” I guess we just need to watch out for such tricky wording in the future, eh?
What boggles my mind the most about this press-release-esque bit on “Scary Vegetarianism” is at the end (again from the mouth of our Dr. Katz):
Vegetarianism, or a mostly plant-based diet, can be recommended to all adolescents, Katz said. “But when adolescents opt for vegetarianism on their own, it is important to find out why because it may signal a cry for help, rather than the pursuit of health,” he said.
Kids told to eat veggies only = okay (because the doctors have the control). Kids CHOOSING to be veggie eaters = Worry! (you don’t have control!) So yeah I guess the message is “Whatever your kid is doing: IT’S WRONG!”
Any readers more in tune with recent child-care and or child health goings-on have other information to add? How does this sort of thing jive with your experiences with your own kids or their classmates? Anyone with a more scientific eye willing to look at the data and relay the importance?
Study Can be Found Here:
Robinson-O’Brien, Ramona et al. “Adolescent and Young Adult Vegetarianism: Better Dietary Intake and Weight Outcomes but Increased Risk of Disordered Eating Behaviors.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109.4 (2009): 648-655. Science Direct. 2 Apr. 2009. <www.sciencedirect.com>.