WashingtonD.C. [USA], Oct. 1 : In an alarming new study, health experts have found that "clean eating" dietary trend among youngster is leading to a growing number of teenagers becoming very thin and even at risk of dying when taken to extremes.
According to a report in the Guardian, Rhiannon Lambert a nutritionist said she had been contacted by girls as young as 12 and people even get in touch on social media saying they want to be healthier, giving details of their existing diets.
She has encountered people, who are obsessed over where food comes from. "They develop particular habits, or won't eat food when walking, because they think that food can only be processed when they're sitting down.
All this interferes with general life and becomes an obsession," she said. Lambert, who treats nearly 180 people in a year with various kinds of eating disorders, said has seen a surge in the number of patients due to the fact that "clean eating" had doubled in the last year.
The extreme form of this is a psychological condition called orthorexia nervosa, said Californian doctor Steven Bratman.
Experts have described it as a "fixation with righteous eating". Clean eating is promoted by some food bloggers, who are increasingly felt by a number of medical experts to be having a negative impact on certain vulnerable young people.
"Young people lose sleep over this and cannot afford the lifestyle needed to maintain it. Health bloggers can be unqualified and offer dangerous advice. Not all of them want to impose their lifestyle on others, but lots of them do and they often give advice on clean eating with no scientific backing," Lambert said.
Adding, "The books come along, the products come along and these people are now role models whose every word will inspire impressionable young people.
I have clients who think they have to be vegan to be successful." There are no official figures for the number of children and young people following a clean eating regime, because orthorexia is not recognized as a clinical diagnosis.
But psychologists and nutritionists have reported a recent surge in the phenomenon among younger clients, especially girls, and believe that it is gaining in popularity.
The eating disorders charity had recently seen a rise in the number of calls to its helpline from young people who have experienced problems as a result of following the trend.
Ursula Philpot, a dietitian said a fixation with eating healthily had been a noticeable route into eating disorders for vulnerable individuals in the past couple of years.
She identified social media and the rise of healthy food trends and blogs as key drivers of the trend, but said it is difficult to blame them completely.
"If it wasn't health bloggers, then it could be something else that becomes the inroad, but it seems to be the route in now," she said.
Orthorexia affects girls more than boys, although boys are much more affected than previously, she added.
The range of foods that people worry about eating has changed, Philpot said. "At the top of most people's lists [of bad foods] is gluten and dairy. When you talk to young people more, you find out about their stringent rules - some will worry all day about eating a biscuit," she said.
The condition starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthily, but those who experience it become fixated on food quality and purity, according to experts."Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and their causes are many and complex.
Research is telling us that they may be more biologically based than we previously thought, but social and environmental factors will also play a part in their development," she said.
"Orthorexia does not have a clinical diagnosis and it would be for clinicians to determine whether it should, which may be helpful, be.