Orthorexia nervosa: A preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon


Aim: To propose a diagnostic proceeding and to try to verify the prevalence of orthorexia nervosa (ON), an eating disorder defined as “a maniacal obsession for healthy foods”. Materials and Methods: 404 subjects were enrolled. Diagnosis of ON was based on both the presence of a disorder with obsessive-compulsive personality features and an exaggerated healthy eating behaviour pattern. Results: Of the 404 subjects examined, 28 were found to suffer from ON (prevalence of 6.9%). The analysis of the physiological characteristics, the social-cultural and the psychological behaviour that characterises subjects suffering from ON shows a higher prevalence in men and in those with a lower level of education. The orthorexic subjects attribute characteristics that show their specific “feelings” towards food (“dangerous” to describe a conserved product, “artificial” for industrially produced products, “healthy” for biological produce) and demonstrate a strong or uncontrollable desire to eat when feeling nervous, excited, happy or guilty.


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Correspondence to Prof. L. M. Donini MD PhD.

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Donini, L.M., Marsili, D., Graziani, M.P. et al. Orthorexia nervosa: A preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon. Eat Weight Disord 9, 151–157 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03325060

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Key word

  • Orthorexia nervosa
  • health food
  • eating disorders