People with an eating disorder are much more likely to have exercise addiction than those with normal eating habits, British researchers say.
They analyzed data from more than 2,100 people who took part in nine studies in the United States, Britain, Australia and Italy.
People with an eating disorder were 3.7 times more likely to have an exercise addiction than those with no eating disorder, according to the findings.
"It is known that those with eating disorders are more likely to display addictive personality and obsessive-compulsive behaviors," said study leader Mike Trott, a researcher in sport science at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. "We are also aware that having an unhealthy relationship with food often means an increased amount of exercising, but this is the first time that a risk factor has been calculated."
He noted that it's common at the start of a new year to want to eat better and exercise. But it's important to stay away from crash diets or any eating plan that eliminates some foods entirely, he added.
"Our study shows that displaying signs of an eating disorder significantly increases the chance of an unhealthy relationship with exercise, and this can have negative consequences, including mental health issues and injury," Trott said in a university news release.
He said health professionals working with people who have eating disorders should consider monitoring their exercise.
This group has been found "to suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of excessive exercise, such as fractures, increased rates of cardiovascular disease in younger patients, and increased overall mortality," Trott said.
The study was published online recently in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on eating disorders.
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