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Body Mass Index, Nutritional Knowledge, and Eating Behaviors in Elite Student and Professional Ballet Dancers

Wyon, Matthew A. PhD*,†; Hutchings, Kate M. MSc; Wells, Abigail MSc*; Nevill, Alan M. PhD*

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: September 2014 - Volume 24 - Issue 5 - p 390–396
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000054
Original Research
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Objective: It is recognized that there is a high esthetic demand in ballet, and this has implications on dancers' body mass index (BMI) and eating behaviors. The objective of this study was to examine the association between BMI, eating attitudes, and nutritional knowledge of elite student and professional ballet dancers.

Design: Observational design.

Setting: Institutional.

Participants: One hundred eighty-nine participants from an elite full-time dance school (M = 53, F = 86) and from an elite ballet company (M = 16, F = 25) volunteered for the study. There were no exclusion criteria.

Interventions: Anthropometric data (height and mass), General Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire (GNKQ), and the Eating Attitude Test—26 (EAT-26) were collected from each participant.

Main Outcome Measures: Univariate analysis of variance was used to examine differences in gender and group for BMI, GNKQ, and EAT-26. Regression analyses were applied to examine interactions between BMI, GNKQ, and EAT-26.

Results: Professional dancers had significantly greater BMI than student dancers (P < 0.001), and males had significantly higher BMI scores than females (P < 0.05). Food knowledge increased with age (P < 0.001) with no gender difference. Student dancers had a significant interaction between year group and gender because of significantly higher EAT-26 scores for females in years 10 and 12. Regression analysis of the subcategories (gender and group) reported a number of significant relationships between BMI, GNKQ, and EAT-26.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that dancers with disordered eating also display lower levels of nutritional knowledge, and this may have an impact on BMI. Female students' eating attitudes and BMI should especially be monitored during periods of adolescent development.

*Research Centre for Sport, Exercise and Performance, University of Wolverhampton, Walsall, United Kingdom,

National Institute for Dance Medicine and Science, Birmingham, United Kingdom, and

English Institute of Sport, Bisham Abbey, Marlow, United Kingdom.

Corresponding Author: Matthew A. Wyon, PhD, Research Centre for Sport, Exercise, and Performance, University of Wolverhampton, Gorway Rd, Walsall, West Midlands, United Kingdom WS1 3BD (

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received March 11, 2013

Accepted October 08, 2013

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins