Orthorexia: Another Kind of Eating Disorder?

We’ve heard of Anorexia and then came Bulimia, but another eating disorder that’s surprising doctors is Orthorexia. It’s hard to consider Orthorexia entirely as a disease! Doctors usually encourage patients to eat healthily but Orthorexia takes the obsession of eating healthily to another level completely.

What does Orthorexia Mean?
The phrase was first coined by a Californian doctor, Steven Bratman in 1997 (Source: Bratman, Steven M.D. Orthorexia retrieved on September 2006 from http://www.orthorexia.com/index.php) when he noticed patients who severely restricted several kinds of food simply because they considered them as unhealthy. This resulted in a severely restricted diet where patients lost large amounts of weight but still considered themselves as being healthy and eating healthily. A typical patient would, for example, reduce his or her intake of red meat due to health reasons. Later on, this health fixation would extend to processed meats and all meats in general, resulting in a severely restricted diet. Patients would then extend the fixation to more and more food items resulting in an abnormally large amount of weight loss.

But Doesn’t the Atkins Diet Run On Similar Principles?
Psychologists credit the disease and the attitude change of Orthorexia to these severely limiting food diets. According to researchers, these types of quirky diets could be the basis for Orthorexia as well as making these patients look completely normal. The attachment to certain food groups while restricting others is now a thriving industry which gives people a sense of belonging while still justifying the process of losing weight. But psychologists warn that these fad diets could be dangerous in the long run. A 2004 study by the University of Rome showed that about 6.9% of surveyed patients exhibited orthorexic behavior and the percentage could be much higher in the general population. (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15330084)

More Research Required?
The key to a healthy body is balanced food along with a good exercise regimen. Patients have to realize that eating healthily means eating everything but in moderation. Orthorexics do require help in letting them know the fact that eating healthy is not the same as near-starvation.

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