While choosing a varied diet rich in nutrients is a basic requirement for good health, some folks carry the search for such a diet way too far. As explained in an article in the Wall Street Journal by WSJ columnist Sumathi Reddy, the term orthorexia has been applied to those who are obsessed with eating foods that are clean, healthy, or have other restrictive criteria. Certainly there are medical conditions which require a person to restrict the foods they eat peanut allergies or gluten intolerance, for example but this isn t necessarily what a person with orthorexia might do, although such a concern might initiate the disorder.
A person with orthorexia might avoid social eating situations if they can t ascertain exactly what s in the food, or how it was prepared. There is not yet a widely accepted diagnosis for orthorexia, however researchers at the University of Northern Colorado, Denver (led by Dr. Ryan Moroze) have published a proposed a set of criteria for defining the condition. These include obsessive concern with the quality and composition of meals, such that a person might spend an inordinate amount of time learning about and preparing particular types of foods. Such concerns could lead to nutritional imbalances or interfere with functions of daily life.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava had this to say: This type of disorder is likely linked to a combination of genetic proclivities and environmental, or societal, influences, including the idea widely promoted in the media that eating properly can have super benefits for health. Also, the pronouncements of activists that our food is 'contaminated' with dangerous levels of pesticides can feed into an untoward concern about food safety issues.