Quiz: Are you obsessed with healthy eating?
MEN are just as likely as women to suffer from orthorexia - when healthy eating becomes such a pathological obsession that foods are dangerously restricted and sufferers freak out if faced with anything unhealthy.
New research highlights the obsessive-compulsive trait is not gender specific but vegetarians, vegans and particularly lacto-vegetarians are at higher risk.
In Australia orthorexia nervosa is not clinically recognised as an eating disorder but the condition has been fuelled by the rise of hyped, clean eating hashtags on Instagram.
"While Australia does not have formal data on orthorexia nervosa, eating disorders and disordered eating together are estimated to affect over 16 per cent of the population and this would include the very concerning 'healthy eating' obsessive behaviours which may lead to severe physical, psychological and social disorders, known to orthorexia," Kevin Barrow chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation told The Courier-Mail.
"The hyped popularity of the healthy and pure food culture being idolised on social media is a concern. There is zero understanding of the detrimental impact these practices can have on some people's health and wellbeing.
This culture also attracts self-styled experts who provide ill-informed health advice to vulnerable people in their growing online communities.
There has never been a more serious example of buyer beware that this latest "health" obsession," he said.
Brisbane nutritionist Katie King says the endless mixed messages of what is healthy has people in a spin.
"Queenslanders have become overwhelmed and stressed out by conflicting advice. Finding balance is the only way to be happy with food. An occasional, unhealthy treat is not as dangerous as becoming scared and stressed out about eating," she said.
The study found that people with depression and a previous eating disorder and those who are preoccupied with body image are more inclined to get into the habit of spending large amounts of time prepping meals and eating on a super strict schedule.
"When taken to the extreme, an obsession with clean eating can be a sign that the person is struggling to manage their mental health," Jennifer Mills, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at York University and senior author said.
Call the Butterfly Foundation for more information: 1800 33 4673.