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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard: Diet Pills, Laxative Use for Weight Control Linked with Eating Disorder Diagnosis

Among young women without an eating disorder diagnosis, those who use diet pills and laxatives for weight control had higher odds of receiving a subsequent first eating disorder diagnosis within one to three years than those who did not report using these products, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve known that diet pills and laxatives when used for weight control can be very harmful substances. We wanted to find out if these products could be a gateway behavior that could lead to an eating order diagnosis,” said senior author Dr. S. Bryn Austin, professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Chan School and director of STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders). “Our findings parallel what we’ve known to be true with tobacco and alcohol: starting harmful substances can set young people on a path to worsening problems, including serious substance use disorder.”

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