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Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2015 Aug 14;10:26799. doi: 10.3402/qhw.v10.26799. eCollection 2015.

Orthorexia nervosa: An integrative literature review of a lifestyle syndrome.

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Department of Food and Nutrition and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
School of Health and Welfare, Halmstad University, Halmstad, Sweden;


Bratman first proposed orthorexia nervosa in the late 1990s, defining it an obsession with eating healthy food to achieve, for instance, improved health. Today, in the Swedish media, excessive exercising plays a central role in relation to orthorexia. A few review articles on orthorexia have been conducted; however, these have not focused on aspects of food and eating, sport, exercise, or a societal perspective. The overall aim of this study was to provide an overview and synthesis of what philosophies of science approaches form the current academic framework of orthorexia. Key questions were: What aspects of food and eating are related to orthorexia? What role do exercise and sports play in relation to orthorexia? In what ways are orthorexia contextualized? Consequently, the concept of healthism was used to discuss and contextualize orthorexia. The method used was an integrative literature review; the material covered 19 empirical and theoretical articles published in peer-reviewed journals. This review demonstrates a multifaceted nature of orthorexia research; this field has been examined from four different philosophies of science approaches (i.e., empirical-atomistic, empirical-atomistic with elements of empirical-holistic, empirical-holistic, and rational-holistic) on individual, social, and societal levels. The majority of the articles followed an empirical-atomistic approach that focused on orthorexia as an individual issue, which was discussed using healthism. Our analysis indicates a need for (a) more empirical-holistic research that applies interpretive qualitative methods and uses a social perspective of health, e.g., healthism and (b) examining the role of sports and exercise in relation to orthorexia that takes the problematizing of "orthorexic behaviours" within the sports context into account.


Disordered eating; excessive exercise; food regulation; health; healthism; sport

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