A new study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, has found that teenage girls who use over-the-counter (OTC) diet pills and laxatives to lose weight are more likely to develop eating disorders.
Girls who used diet pills had a nearly 260% greater risk of being diagnosed with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia within five years, according to Medical Xpress. And when they used laxatives, the risk was 177% greater than those who did not use the products.
Lead researcher Vivienne Hazzard said, “These findings, especially when also considering that diet pills and laxatives can lead to a number of dangerous side effects, including liver and kidney damage, really emphasize the need for policies to restrict access to these products, especially for youth.”
She said that California, Massachusetts, and New York have been considering banning the sale of OTC diet pills to teenagers. “
“Based on the results of our study and a lot of other evidence indicating the dangers of diet pills, passing these bills should be a no-brainer,” Hazzard explained.
However, some experts expressed their concerns over banning such products.
Dr. Mitchell Roslin, the Chief of Obesity Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC, said he is concerned that banning these drugs to minors could lead to drastic measures in kids.
He said, “The issue is that there is potentially abnormal stress or anxiety about weight and body shape. That is expressed by taking substances that they have been told may offer short-term weight loss.”
Dr. Roslin said the stress among teenagers would remain if these drugs are banned. He explained, “I’m not sure that would not be expressed in more harmful items and more dangerous drugs The taking of a substance is the symptom, not the underlying issue. Beware of unintended consequences.”
Hazzard urged parents to be cautious. She said parents should consider the findings a warning sign among teens using OTC diet pills or laxatives as a weight-loss aid.
“If they learn that their child is using diet pills or laxatives to control their weight, parents should have a conversation with their child about the dangers of these products, and also, more broadly, about their child’s body image and relationship with food,” Hazzard warned.
“Parents should also take their child to be evaluated by a pediatrician and consider having their child speak with a mental health professional,” she added.
“We need to protect our youth from using diet pills and laxatives to control their weight because using these products could lead to eating disorders, which are serious diseases with high mortality rates, Hazzard continued. The article was published on Medical Xpress.