An obsession with eating healthily could in fact be bad for your health, scientists warn.
Those who deny themselves entire food groups or worry too much about the 'purity' of their meals are risking their mental and physical wellbeing. Experts have reported a rise in such extreme behaviour, known as orthorexia nervosa. Sufferers or orthorexia nervosa tend to be over 30, middle-class and well-educated.
While anorexia patients restrict the quantity of the food they eat, sufferers of orthorexia, named after the Greek for 'right or true', fixate on quality. The 'rules' vary from person to person, but the drive to eat only the healthiest foods can lead to sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soya, corn and dairy foods being eliminated from the diet. Foods tainted by pesticides or that contain artificial additives such as MSG are often also ditched. One orthorexic is reputed to eat only yellow foods.
While such habits may seem quirky, they can have a serious effect on health. Cutting out entire food groups can leave sufferers malnourished, while rigid rules can make eating out impossible, putting a huge strain on friendships and relationships.
Ursula Philpot, chairman of the British Dietetic Association's mental health group, said: 'I am definitely seeing significantly more orthorexics than just a few years ago.