Electronic cigarettes have been linked to an increased risk of eating disorders in young people, ranging from anorexia to bulimia.
The use of electronic cigarettes is not without health consequences. In a recent study published September 11 in the journal Eating Behaviors, researchers suggested that vaping increases the risk of developing an eating disorder in young adults.
For the study, the authors looked at a sample of more than 51,000 U.S. college students from the Healthy Minds survey conducted between 2018 and 2019. Of those, 19% reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, and 3.7% reported having an eating disorder, of which one in four was at high risk of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, and bulimia.
The researchers also found that participants who reported being diagnosed with an eating disorder were more likely to use electronic cigarettes. “The higher prevalence of vaping in people with eating disorder symptoms is concerning because it can exacerbate physical health complications such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurological problems,” said Kyle T. Ganson, a researcher at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study.
E-cigarettes with nicotine
The researchers also found that most vapers used e-cigarettes with nicotine, especially in connection with eating disorders. “Nicotine vaping can be used by people to catalyze behaviors and goals associated with eating disorders, such as appetite suppression and weight loss,” says Kyle Ganson. Nicotine vaping can lead to addiction which could lead to more drug abuse.
These findings are particularly important as eating and substance use disorders have increased during the pandemic. “Young people with eating or drug problems should seek help from a health professional,” said Jason M. Nagata, co-author of the study. Physicians should screen adolescents for eating disorders and drug use, especially during a pandemic.