Dr. David LaPorte of Indiana University of Pennsylvania says the study involved 90 university students screened to ensure they had a normal body mass index and no history of eating disorders. All of the participants were asked to keep food diaries.
One group was exposed to 90 minutes of healthy eating and exercise Web sites; another group to 90 minutes of tourism Web sites; and one group to 90 minutes of pro-eating disorder Web sites sites promoting anorexia or bulimia and extremely thin women.
The female students exposed to the Web sites promoting anorexia or bulimia experienced a significant one-week decrease in caloric intake: 12,167 calories pre-exposure reduced to 9,697 calories after exposure to the Web sites promoting anorexia or bulimia
"The results were dramatic: The average reduction of calories was 2,470, which is more than a day's worth of calories," LaPorte says in a statement. "This study shows how dangerous these Web sites can be. If we can see such huge reductions in caloric intake after only 90 minutes of exposure, imagine the effect these Web sites could have on a vulnerable teenager who has eating issues and may spend hours viewing the sites' content."
The findings were published in European Eating Disorders Review.