A pilot study comparing the prevalence of orthorexia nervosa in regular students and those in University sports teams



Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is a pattern of eating characterized by a pathological fixation on restricting foods based on their perceived health. Like many eating disorders, ON is thought to be more prevalent in athletes. This was a preliminary study to explore the prevalence of ON in University students to determine whether those who compete in University sports have higher orthorexic tendencies.


116 male and female student athletes (age 21 ± 1 years) and 99 non-athlete controls (21 ± 2) from Universities in the North East of the UK completed the ORTO-15 test (≤ 40 being the cutoff) used to screen individuals for ON.


ON symptoms were high in all students (76%); there was no difference in ORTO-15 scores between the athletes (36.6 ± 3.9) and non-athlete controls (37.2 ± 3.8; P = 0.279). There was a difference in scores between those who completed ≥ 10 h of exercise per week (36.65 ± 4.38) and those who do ≤ 10 h a week (37.38 ± 3.65) (P = 0.008; ES = 0.43). ORTO-15 scores were not higher in athletes competing in aesthetic and weight dependent sports (P > 0.05).


Being a student athlete for a University sports team did not affect ON prevalence; however, there appears to be a greater risk for students in general, and for athletes who undertake high volumes of exercise. Nonetheless, the high prevalence of ON symptoms may be attributed to flaws in the ORTO-15 questionnaire, and therefore, future studies should focus on developing a more valid method for ON diagnosis.

Level of evidence

III, case-control study.


Sport Exercise Eating disorders Mental health Orthorexia nervosa ORTO-15 Students Athletes 

Autor / Fonte:Tom Clifford, Charlotte Blyth Eating and Weight Disorders: EWD 2018 September 27
Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40519-018-0584-0