Prevalence and characteristics of orthorexia nervosa in a sample of university students in Italy

  • L. Dell’Osso
  • Barbara CarpitaEmail author
  • D. Muti
  • I. M. Cremone
  • G. Massimetti
  • E. Diadema
  • C. Gesi
  • C. Carmassi
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Orthorexia Nervosa



Orthorexia nervosa (ON) has been recently defined as a pathological approach to feeding related to healthiness concerns and purity of food and/or feeding habits. This condition recently showed an increasing prevalence particularly among young adults. In order to investigate the prevalence of ON and its relationship with gender and nutritional style among young adults, we explored a sample of students from the University of Pisa, Italy.


Assessments included the ORTO-15 questionnaire and a socio-demographic and eating habits form. Subjects were dichotomized for eating habits (i.e. standard vs vegetarian/vegan diet), gender, parents’ educational level, type of high school attended, BMI (low vs high vs normal BMI). Chi square tests were performed to compare rates of subjects with overthreshold ORTO-15 scores, and Student’s unpaired t test to compare mean scores between groups. Two Classification tree analyses with CHAID growing method were employed to identify the variables best predicting ON and ORTO-15 total score.


more than one-third of the sample showed ON symptoms (ORTO-15 ≥ 35), with higher rates among females. Tree analyses showed diet type to predict ON and ORTO-15 total score more than gender.


Our results seem to corroborate recent data highlighting similarities between ON and anorexia nervosa (AN). We propose an interpretation of ON as a phenotype of AN in the broader context of Feeding and eating disorders (FEDs) spectrum.


Orthorexia nervosa Eating disorders University population Healthy eating Healthy food 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical and Experimental MedicineUniversity of PisaPisaItaly

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