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Orthorexia nervosa (Orthorexia) is an eating attitude and behavior associated with a fixation on healthy eating, while eating disorders (EDs) are clinically diagnosed psychiatric disorders associated with marked disturbances in eating that may cause impairment to psychosocial and physical health. The purpose of this study was to examine risk for Orthorexia and EDs in student-athletes across sex and sport type and determine the association between the two. Student-athletes ( = 1,090; age: 19.6 ± 1.4 years; females = 756; males = 334) completed a survey including demographics, the ORTO-15 test (values), the Eating Attitudes Test-26 (EAT-26; >20 score), and additional questions about pathogenic behaviors to screen for EDs. Using a ORTO-15, 67.9% were at risk for Orthorexia, a more restrictive threshold value of 17.7% prevalence across student-athletes with significant differences across sex [ <40: >χ = 4.914, = 0.027; <35: >χ = 5.923, = 0.015). Overall, ED risk (EAT-26 and/or pathogenic behavior use) resulted in a 20.9% prevalence, with significant differences across sex (χ = 11.360, < 0.001) and sport-type category (χ = 10.312, = 0.035). Multiple logistic regressions indicated a significant association between EAT-26 subscales scores and Orthorexia, and between Orthorexia positivity, ORTO-15 scores, and risk for EDs. Risk for Orthorexia and ED is present in collegiate student-athletes. While healthy and balanced eating is important, obsessive healthy eating fixations may increase the risk for EDs in athletes. More education and awareness are warranted to minimize the risk for Orthorexia and EDs in student-athletes.

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APA Citation

Uriegas, N. A., Winkelmann, Z. K., Pritchett, K., & Torres-McGehee, T. M. (2021). Examining eating attitudes and behaviors in collegiate athletes, the association between orthorexia nervosa and eating disorders. Frontiers in Nutrition, 8, 763838.


© 2021 Uriegas, Winkelmann, Pritchett and Torres-McGehee. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.