Teenage girls who are dieting are far more likely to go to parties, smoke and binge-drink, scientists have claimed.
A study found that trying to lose weight led to a range of harmful behaviours, including skipping meals, which researchers suggest is linked to poor body image.
The team at the University of Waterloo in Canada examined data from more than 3,300 high school girls.
Amanda Raffoul, who led the study, said: ‘It might seem natural for there to be a connection between dieting and behaviours such as smoking and skipping meals, but the explanation is not so clear for something like binge drinking.
‘Our findings suggest that dieting and other risky health behaviours may be related to common underlying factors, such as poor body image. The link between dieting and other health-compromising behaviours is worrisome, since 70 % of girls reported dieting at some point.’
Miss Raffoul said teenage girls should not be encouraged to lose weight as they are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders. She added: ‘It’s possible that well-meaning initiatives that promote dieting may be doing more harm than good. Instead, we should focus on health broadly rather than weight as an indicator of health.’