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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Teenagers who regularly use the bathroom scale may be more likely than their peers to take healthy measures to control their weight, a new study suggests.
The findings, reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health, counter those from an earlier study of teenage girls that linked regular weight checks to a higher risk of unhealthy weight-control habits.
Instead, researchers found that among the 130 adolescents they surveyed, those who weighed themselves once a week or more were more likely to report healthy weight-control tactics -- like exercising regularly or eating less junk food and more fruits and vegetables.
They were not, in contrast, at increased risk of unhealthy measures, such as fasting, abusing laxatives or vomiting.
The teenagers in the study were all either overweight or had been overweight in the past two years before shedding the excess pounds. Overall, 43 percent said they weighed themselves at least once per week, while 57 percent weighed in less often or not at all.
It's not clear whether regular weight checks encouraged some teens to adopt a healthier lifestyle and, in some cases, lose weight. Nonetheless, the findings do suggest that regular weigh-ins can be part of a healthy weight-loss plan for teenagers, noted senior researcher Dr. Kerri N. Boutelle, an associate professor pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.
Her advice to parents, she told Reuters Health, is that if their children are overweight, checking in with the scale can help them "self-regulate" their weight. As with adults, an awareness of weight fluctuations can help teenagers adjust their diet and exercise levels accordingly, Boutelle and her colleagues say.
On the other hand, obsessive weighing may signal a problem with body image, and possibly an increased risk of unhealthy weight-loss measures and eating disorders. If a teenager is checking his or her weight multiple times a day, Boutelle said, that should raise parents' concerns.
SOURCE: Journal of Adolescent Health, May 2009.