Individuals who self-identify as having “orthorexia nervosa” score in the clinical range on the Eating Attitudes Test-26

  • Thomas M. DunnEmail author
  • Nicole Hawkins
  • Stacey Gagliano
  • Kristen Stoddard
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Orthorexia Nervosa



In recent years, there has been growing interest in pathologically healthful eating, often called orthorexia nervosa (ON). Much of the literature in this area has been about point prevalence of ON in particular populations, which range from less than 1% to nearly 90% depending on the study. Despite this interest, there has been no extensive examination of whether those with pathologically healthful eating are detected by screening instruments that identify disordered eating. This study examines whether individuals who self-report suffering from ON score in the clinical range on the 26-item Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26).


Individuals (n = 354) sampled from both clinical and non-clinical settings were administered the EAT-26 to determine whether those who self-identify as having ON scored in a range that suggests disordered eating.


Participants who self-report suffering from ON had a mean EAT-26 score of 30.89 (SD 12.60) scoring in a range that urges individuals to seek additional advice on whether there is an eating disorder present (scores of 20 and higher fall in a range suggesting a possible eating disorder). Furthermore, those in the ON group scored no differently than those reporting other eating disorders, but significantly higher than a non-clinical control group.


Our findings indicate that a screening instrument for a possible eating disorder is sensitive to pathologically healthful eating (but has no specificity).

Level of evidence

Level III, case control analytic study.


Orthorexia nervosa Pathologically healthful eating EAT-26 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

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.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individuals included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychological SciencesUniversity of Northern ColoradoGreeleyUSA
  2. 2.Behavioral Health ServiceDenver Health Medical CenterDenverUSA
  3. 3.Center for ChangeOremUSA

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