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Teen scene: Diet pills

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November 06, 2006|Susan Brink | Times Staff Writer

INCREASING numbers of teenage girls look to diet pills to lose weight, a new study has found.

Conducted at the University of Minnesota and published last week in the journal Preventive Medicine, the study found that the use of diet pills almost doubled in a group of 2,500 female adolescents tracked for five years -- overall rates of pill use rising from 7.5% to 14%. By the time girls reached ages 19 to 20, nearly 20% reported using diet pills to lose weight.

Teens were tracked in two groups, about half from seventh grade onward, the rest from when they were high school juniors or seniors. Each group increased their use of diet pills over time; the younger group had outpaced the older group by the time they reached their senior year in high school. "There are more pressures to be thin and greater availability of the pills over the counter and on the Internet," says study author Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor at the university.

Researchers didn't ask what pills the girls took, she adds, but they probably included appetite suppressants, laxatives and stimulants. Not only did the pills fail, the girls who used pills (and other unhealthful behaviors such as skipping meals or throwing up) also were three times more likely to be overweight at the study's end. "What we think ... is that they go on these unhealthy, restrictive diets," Neumark-Sztainer says. "And then [they] binge and get themselves on a bad cycle."

susan.brink@latimes.com

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