Orthorexia nervosa: a frequent eating disordered behavior in athletes

Eat Weight Disord. 2012 Dec;17(4):e226-33. doi: 10.3275/8272. Epub 2012 Feb 21.


Striving for enhancing athletic performance, many sportsmen undergo rigid dietary habits, which could lead to eating disorders (EDs) or Orthorexia Nervosa (ON), a psychopathological condition characterized by the obsession for high quality food. The aim of the study was to examine the occurrence of ON in athletes and to verify the relationship between ON and EDs. Five-hundred-seventy-seven athletes and 217 matched controls were administered the following tests: ORTO-15, Eating Attitude Test 26 (EAT-26), Body Uneasiness Test (BUT) and Yale-Brown-Cornell Eating Disorder Scale (YBC-EDS). High positivity to ORTO-15 (28%) and EAT-26 (14%) emerged in athletes, whereas a high rate of BUT positivity was evident among controls (21%). Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that independent predictors of ON are previous dieting, age, positivity to YBC-EDS, positivity to EAT-26, competition level, and number of YBC-EDS preoccupations and rituals. Sharing many features with both EDs and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum, ON represents a crossroad between these pathologic conditions and might compromise the health state of an athlete. Therefore, coaches should consider important to detect symptoms of EDs and ON in their athletes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult