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Orthorexic and restrained eating behaviour in vegans, vegetarians, and individuals on a diet

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Orthorexic eating behaviour, restrained eating, and veganism/vegetarianism are food selection strategies sharing several characteristics. Since there are no studies investigating their interrelationships, aim of the present study was to analyse orthorexic and restrained eating behaviour in (1) a sample of vegans and vegetarians and (2) a sample of individuals on a diet to lose weight.


Division of samples according to pre-defined criteria in (1) vegans (n = 114), vegetarians (n = 63), individuals with rare meat consumption (n = 83) and individuals with frequent meat consumption (n = 91) and in (2) participants on a diet with dietary change (n = 104), without dietary change (n = 37) and a control group of individuals not on a diet (n = 258). Orthorexic eating behaviour was assessed with the Düsseldorfer Orthorexie Skala and restrained eating was assessed with the Restraint Eating Scale.


Vegans and vegetarians do not differ in orthorexic eating behaviour, but both groups score higher in orthorexic eating behaviour than individuals consuming red meat. There are no differences regarding restrained eating. Individuals on a diet with dietary change score higher in both orthorexic and restrained eating, than individuals without dietary change and individuals not on a diet.


Individuals who restrict their eating behaviour, either predominantly due to ethical reasons or with the intention to lose weight, display more orthorexic eating behaviour than individuals not limiting their food consumption. Further research is needed to investigate whether veganism, vegetarianism, or frequent dieting behaviour serve as risk factors for orthorexia.

Level of evidence

Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.

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The authors wish to thank Nadezda Stieger and Sina Lavendel for their great help in collecting the data and Hannah Kiesow-Berger for her valuable assistance with language revision.


The studies have not been funded.

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Correspondence to Friederike Barthels.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Local ethics committee approval was not required for the studies that only included surveys. Surveys are common used research tools and the technique itself received ethical approval several times. Participants were asked about their eating behaviour, and questions like these are not supposed to cause any harm to adult human beings. Even in the very unlikely case that participants felt uneasy while answering the questions, they could easily cancel the survey at any time without any disadvantages. Participants were informed that their participation is voluntary and anonymous, and that their data is handled according to privacy policy. Furthermore, participants knew that they could cancel the survey any time by not completing the questionnaire or not sending their data using the “send-button”. With sending their data, they agreed to participate in the study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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This article is part of topical collection on Orthorexia Nervosa.

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Barthels, F., Meyer, F. & Pietrowsky, R. Orthorexic and restrained eating behaviour in vegans, vegetarians, and individuals on a diet. Eat Weight Disord 23, 159–166 (2018).

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