OBJECTIVES: The following article presents the relationship between vegetarianism and orthorexia nervosa (ON). Vegetarianism is an ideology and a way of life that aims at minimizing animal exploitation. A vegetarian diet excludes the consumption of meat together with other animal derived products. According to scientists, orthorexia nervosa is considered to be a new, yet unclassified eating disorder. It involves introducing dietary restrictions by individuals who feel a desire to improve their health status by healthy eating.
METHODS: The study involved 2,611 participants, namely 1,346 vegetarians and 1,265 non-vegetarians. The research questionnaire consisted of general personal and anthropometric characteristics, the BOT(Bratman Test for Orthorexia) and questions evaluating the participants' attitude towards nutrition.
RESULTS: Based on the obtained results, health food fanaticism is more specific to vegetarians than non-vegetarians. The risk for orthorexia nervosa decreases with age and diet duration. The biggest number of health food fanatics was found in the group of lacto-vegetarians, a lower number among ovo-vegetarians and lacto-ovo-vegetarians, and the smallest number was observed in the vegan group. Also, vegetarians were reported to have dietary consultations as frequently as non-vegetarians.
CONCLUSIONS: Very few studies can be found on the relationship between orthorexia nervosa and vegetarianism. Some scientists believe that vegetarians are particularly prone to orthorexia nervosa. In addition, it has been suggested by other researchers that vegetarianism can be used to mask eating disorders, as it allows these affected individuals to avoid certain products or situations related to food. The direction of cause and effect cannot be determined.
KEYWORDS: eating disorders; orthorexia; vegetarianism