Risk of Abnormal Eating Attitudes among Turkish Dietetic Students

By Kiziltan, Gul; Karabudak, Efsun | Adolescence, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview
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Risk of Abnormal Eating Attitudes among Turkish Dietetic Students

Kiziltan, Gul, Karabudak, Efsun, Adolescence

Eating behavior is a complex interaction of multiple physiological and psychological factors. There has been a significant increase in the incidence of eating disorders in the past twenty years, and it is commonly believed that they are associated with Western societies and their emphasis on thinness and are much less common in non-Western countries (Nassar, 1988; Makino, Tsuboi, & Dennerstein, 2004). Nattiv and Lynch (1994) estimated that 1-3% of the general Western female population meet formal criteria for disordered eating, with higher prevalence among adolescent and young adult women. Also, in Turkey most of the studies that investigate eating disorders are conducted on adolescents and college students (Erol, Toprak, & Yazici 2006; Uzun et al., 2006; Campolat, Orsel, Akdemir, & Ozbay, 2005; Kugu et al., 2006; Altug, Elal, Slade, & Tekcan, 2000).

It is thought that students in some college majors have a higher prevalence of eating disorders (EDs) with those in fields related to nutrition more prone to EDs because of their preoccupation with food. Their interest may be manifested through food-related activities such as collecting recipes, preparing food for others, or even exploring a career in nutrition (Mehr, Clemens, Roach, & Beech, 1997). One study showed that 24% of the dietetic majors manifested characteristics of anorexia nervosa and indicated that some students may choose dietetics as a major because of their personal experiences and obsessions with food (Drake, 1989). In fact, results from a number of studies suggest that female dietetic students may be at greater risk for eating disorders than are women enrolled in other majors (Mehr et al., 1997; Reinstein, Koszewski, Chamberlin, & Smith-Johnson, 1992; Worobey & Schoenfled, 1999). In contrast to these findings, in other studies, no significant differences were found between dietetic and non-dietetic students (Johnston & Christopher, 1991; Howat, Beplay, & Wozaik, 1993).

The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of abnormal eating attitudes among dietetic students and whether nutrition education had any effect on eating attitudes among Turkish university students.



The subjects of this study were 248 female dietetic students from a public and private university of the Nutrition and Dietetic Departments enrolled in a "Principles of Nutrition" course and 320 female non-dietetic students in Ankara, Turkey. The mean age of the groups ranged between 19-22 years.


Questionnaire interview were conducted to gather demographic information and nutritional habits of the students.

Body Mass Index. Participants reported their height and weight. Based on these self-reported data, a body mass index was calculated (BMI=weight in kg/height in [m.sup.2]).

The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) is a widely used self-report measure of eating disorders, and although it was developed by Garner and Garfinkel (1979) to measure symptoms of anorexia nervosa, it has been used in non-clinical samples as a general screening measure for disordered eating attitudes. EAT-40 was adapted to Turkish by Savasir and Erol (1989). The EAT-26 is based on an original Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-40). Total scores on the EAT-26 are derived as a sum of the composite items, ranging from 0 to 53, with a score of 20 on the EAT-26 used as the cut-off (Garner, Olmsted, Bohr, & Garfinkel, 1982). The reliability of EAT-26 was also determined by a pilot study on 50 university students. The internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) of EAT-26 was 0.70 and its interclass correlation coefficient was 0.98 in the pilot study. Participants who scored 20 or above were placed in the "abnormal eating behavior" category and those scoring below 20 were placed in the "normal eating behavior" category.

The Bulimic Investigatory Test, Edinburgh (BITE) was proposed by Henderson and Freeman (1987).

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