Orthorexia: Definition, Signs and Symptoms

Orthorexia is a term coined by Dr Steven Bratman in 1997. He created the term “Orthorexia” to classify people that eat limited food or diets for the sake of eating healthy. It can start normally as being conscious about what he eats, and then becomes more extreme by eliminating an entire food group to his diets such as meats or carbohydrates.

What is Orthorexia?

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Orthorexia is a term for an eating disorder or condition that includes obsessive behaviors in pursuit of a healthy diet. Some symptoms of Orthorexia are somelike similar to those who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa and other eating disorders.

For over a decade, experts are divided either to consider Orthorexia an eating disorder or not. Some experts even considered Orthorexia a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Others belived that Orthorexia is an obsessive fixation towards food, just like that of those suffering from anorexia and bulimia.

Orthorexia became even more common with the rise of so called healthy diets that eliminates a food group out of our normal diets such as fats and carbohydrates

Signs of Orthorexia

There are some common and easy to finds signs that indicates a person with Orthorexia. A person with Orthorexia only eats “Healthy Foods”. These so called“healthy foods” for them may not even include lean meats, low fat dairy products, or foods with sugar and salt.

Foods that are avoided by people with Orthorexia

  • Meat and Dairy products
  • Processed Foods including canned meats, bottled fruit juices, preserved fruits and vegetables
  • Foods with artificial flavorings and colorings
  • Foods with salt or sugar
  • Foods grown with chemical pesticides and fertilizers as well as those genetically modified.

Effects of Orthorexia

Unlike Bulimia and Anorexia, Orthorexia does not pose any immediate health problems. It could however lead to other health related disorders. Restricting one’s diet could lead to anorexia and undernourishment. It could go the other way around, causing some guilt, and later purging or bulimia.

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A study in oneUniversityofRomeshows that, out of 400 students, 28 or 6.9 % are found out to have Orthorexia.  This is higher are compared to the combined numbers of students who have Anorexia and Bulimia. Orthorexia is also more common in men as compared to women.

Help for People with Orthorexia

One of the most difficult challenges for people with Orthorexia is convincing them to go back eating normal foods. It is a challenge because they think that normal foods are bad and can be harmful to their health.

It is best to consult a health expert if you suspect to have Orthorexia because the said condition can lead to more serious complications in the future.


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