Teens Dieting: More Harm than Good

( [email protected] ) Apr 07, 2004 04:04 PM EDT

A new study suggests teens who frequently diet tend to gain more weight per year than those who don't diet.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests many teens resort to diets that greatly restrict what they eat, but then abandon the diets—overeating and regaining all the lost weight and often more.

‘Boomerang effect’ hits teens too

The results of the study showed that ‘the boomerang effect’— dieting and then regaining lost pounds—is as real a problem for teens trying to lose weight as it is for adults.

Researchers studied the eating habits of nearly 15,000 girls and boys who were between 9 and 14 at the start of the study in 1996. Twenty-five percent of the girls and 13.8 % of the boys said they dieted often when the study began. As the researchers tracked the children for three years, they found that those who dieted actually gained more weight on average than those who didn't. The dieters picked up about two pounds per year, compared to the non-dieters.

24% of children are obese

The study’s authors say that frequent dieting may alter the metabolism so it doesn't function as efficiently or speedily.

The prevalence of overweight has increased by 100 % among US teens over the course of the last two decades. According to statistics almost 14 million children—24 % of the population aged 2 to 17—are obese, with an additional 8.6 million children at risk for obesity.


1. A. E. Field; Austin, S.B., Colditz, G.A., Gillman, M.W., Malspeis, S., Rockett, H.R., Rosner, B., Taylor, C.B., “Relation between Dieting and Weight Change among Preadolescents and Adolescents,” Pediatrics, 2003: 112: 900-906.