Disordered eating and the meat-avoidance spectrum: a systematic review and clinical implications

Courtney Mclean, Jayashri Kulkarni, Gemma Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Meat avoidance has long been thought to be related to eating psychopathology; however, research does not necessarily support this notion. Furthermore, commonly used eating disorder scales may be picking up on normal meat-avoiding behaviours in vegetarians and vegans. As such, we systematically reviewed the association between vegetarianism, veganism, and disordered eating, and reviewed the psychometric properties of eating disorder scales for use in these populations. Methods: We searched electronic databases MEDLINE, PsychINFO, and CINAHL for literature published until June 2021. Results: Forty-eight studies met eligibility criteria, with no consensus as to whether meat avoidance was associated with higher rates of disordered eating. Most studies reported a significant positive association with both vegetarianism and veganism, and orthorexia nervosa. Six studies provided evidence for the use of eating disorder measures in vegetarians and vegans, reporting poor psychometric fit among all scales. Conclusion: This systematic review highlights the extent to which vegetarians and vegans have been highly understudied, with limited research suggesting higher levels of orthorexia nervosa behaviours in vegetarians and vegans. Furthermore, our results provide tentative evidence that the factorial validity of commonly used eating disorder scales, such as the EDE-Q, may be poor in vegans. Level of evidence: Level I, systematic review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2347-2375
Number of pages29
JournalEating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Eating disorders
  • Orthorexia nervosa
  • Psychometric properties
  • Veganism
  • Vegetarianism

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