Could it be that concentrating on eating healthy foods for your body might actually be hurting your mind? A group of researchers is now saying that it might. What do we call this latest eating disorder? How about orthorexia nervosa? That’s what University of Northern Colorado professor Thom Dunn calls the disorder he is also diagnosing. Dunn admits to being ahead of the curve. Orthorexia nervosa is not yet an official disease. It cannot be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5, but Dunn figures it is only a matter of time. His co-authored article on the disorder in the March issue of the journal Psychosomatics got the ball rolling. The authors say that while it’s true that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese and would likely benefit from a change in diet, there is a smaller subset of people for whom concern over the type of food they eat can become a danger to their health. What begins as an effort to eat pure foods can turn into an obsession with this goal, say the researchers. The term orthorexia nervosa, originally coined by another pair of scientists in the late 90s, means, literally, a fixation on a correct or right appetite. In Dunn’s research it has come to mean that a person is obsessed by the quality or purity of the food they eat. The UNC School of Psychological Science professor says there are signs to look for when searching out orthorexia. These include:
- Fatigue, which is often a sign of malnourishment.
- Friends who decline to dine. Imposing dietary restrictions on oneself, bringing special meals or scales to restaurants because one distrusts the quality of the food there, or a distraction with food and its makeup are signs of the condition.
- Depression. A person is obsessed with food quality, but mostly depressed to the point where both his social life and his job are at risk.
Dunn suggests it may be time for people to get their heads out of the food trend frenzy and approach concerns over the quality of their food with a bit more moderation. He also recommends being aware that a restrictive diet can lead to malnutrition.