Journal of
Public Health and Epidemiology

  • Abbreviation: J. Public Health Epidemiol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2316
  • DOI: 10.5897/JPHE
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 613

Full Length Research Paper

Occurrence and relevance of orthorexic eating behaviour in clients of complementary and alternative medicine

Friederike Barthels
  • Friederike Barthels
  • Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute of Experimental Psychology, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
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Sandra Gahlmann
  • Sandra Gahlmann
  • Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute of Experimental Psychology, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
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Tabitha Schwabe
  • Tabitha Schwabe
  • Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute of Experimental Psychology, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
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Reinhard Pietrowsky
  • Reinhard Pietrowsky
  • Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute of Experimental Psychology, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
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  •  Received: 07 September 2021
  •  Accepted: 05 November 2021
  •  Published: 30 November 2021

Abstract

Orthorexia is put forward as a new variant of disordered eating behavior, characterized by a fixation on only eating food that is considered to be healthy. First studies evaluating its clinical relevance revealed that orthorexic individuals seek help from health professionals and nutritionists. However, practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have not been considered yet. Hence, the aim of this study was to survey German CAM practitioners regarding the relevance and occurrence of orthorexic eating behavior in their clients. Two hundred and seventy-six participants filled in an online questionnaire that included questions on (1) level of awareness and participants’ evaluation of orthorexia, (2) prevalence, symptoms and comorbidities of orthorexia among their clients and (3) diagnostic assessment and treatment approaches. The results revealed that CAM practitioners considered orthorexia nervosa to be of clinical relevance. Seventy percent of the participants had been consulted by individuals with orthorexic eating behavior. However, only 20% of the participants reported that orthorexic eating behavior was the main symptom of the clients. It can be concluded that orthorexic eating behavior is a relevant condition in complementary and alternative medicine and that more research is needed in order to provide health care professionals with profound information regarding its symptomatic features and recommendations regarding its treatment.

Key words: Orthorexia nervosa, orthorexic eating behavior, eating disorders, disordered eating behavior, complementary and alternative medicine.