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J Am Diet Assoc. 2002 May;102(5):672-7.

Half of rural girls aged 8 to 17 years report weight concerns and dietary changes, with both more prevalent with increased age.

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Creighton University, Omaha, Neb, USA.



Determine body image satisfaction, weight concerns and dieting behaviors, Tanner index, and dietary adequacy in young women and girls.


A cross-sectional, self-selected comparative survey was completed.


Rural white women and girls (N=333) aged 8 to 17 years, completed a weight concerns and dieting behavior questionnaire, a body image assessment, and a self-rating of sexual maturity, and 230 subjects completed 3-day diet diaries. ANALYSES PERFORMED: Correlational analysis identified relationships between variables among age groups (8 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, and 15 to 17 years). Analysis of variance examined differences among variables. Multiple regression analysis measured the influence of variables on diet quality. A mean adequacy ratio (MAR) was computed to express dietary adequacy.


More than half (52%) of the subjects reported 1 or more weight concerns and dieting behaviors. This pattern increased with age. Friends dieting positively influenced scores (P=.0001) for 8- to 14-year olds, and a dieting family member meant higher scores (P=.04) for all ages studied. Although most wanted to be smaller, there was little body image dissatisfaction. Girls (aged 11 to 17 years) who dieted had greater body dissatisfaction (P=.0001) and significantly lower (P=.002), but adequate diets (MAR=76) compared to those who did not diet (MAR=81). Inverse relationships were found for the 11- to 14-year olds with diet adequacy and the following variables: body image dissatisfaction (-2.7, P<.01) and weight concerns and dieting behaviors (-3.7, P<.001). These variables accounted for 34% (P=.0001) of the variance in the MAR.


Dietitians, partnering with school and health clinic personnel, need to educate girls younger than age 11 years about attaining the dietary adequacy needed to support expected growth. This age is important because it appears that actual weight and dieting concerns begin earlier, and by age 11 years, negatively affect diet quality.

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