Characteristics and clinical implications of the relationship between veganism and pathological eating behaviours

Courtney P. McLean, Ella K. Moeck, Gemma Sharp, Nicole A. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Veganism may serve as a socially acceptable means to restrict food intake and disguise pathological eating behaviours. Studies that include vegan participants typically group them with other meat avoiders (e.g., vegetarians), potentially masking risk factors unique to veganism. Method: We addressed this issue by recruiting two Amazon Mechanical Turk samples of 110 vegan and 118 omnivore participants, with comparable gender composition. We aimed to examine whether vegans showed higher disordered eating than omnivores, and if motives for pursuing a vegan diet impacted disordered eating. We assessed disordered eating using the Eating Attitudes Test, the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire, and the Eating Pathology Symptom Inventory. Results: Vegans displayed more pathological eating behaviours than omnivores, which was significantly predicted by cognitive restraint. However, body dissatisfaction levels were higher in omnivores than vegans. Diet motives did not influence vegans’ disordered eating. Conclusion: We propose vegans have high levels of cognitive restraint, possibly due to their intention to avoid animal products. In turn, cognitive restraint subscales in eating disorder measures might be over-pathologising rates of eating disorders in vegans. Future research should monitor the progression of people’s eating-related attitudes and behaviours before and after they transition to veganism to establish whether veganism increases the risk of disordered eating, or vice versa. Level of evidence: IV, cross-sectional study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1881-1886
Number of pages6
JournalEating and Weight Disorders
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Cognitive restraint
  • Diet motivations
  • Disordered eating
  • Eating disorder
  • Vegan

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