Eating healthy is a good thing, but when it is taken to the extreme, there is danger of a modern eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa.

This condition is usually the end result of self-enforced laws that isolate an individual from social food gatherings and in extreme cases, it can also endanger health.

Patrick Denoux is a professor in intercultural psychology at the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaures and he says someone suffering from orthorexia is "imprisoned by a range of rules which they impose on themselves".

People have become so afraid of their food and some people go to the extent of eating plant based food and carry on to becoming “raw foodists”.

The AFP News quoted a Paris nutritionist, Sophie Ortega, as saying that she had one patient who was going blind due to deficiency of vitamin B12, which is needed to make red-blood cells.

B12 is not made by the body, and most people get what they need from animal-derived foods such as eggs, dairy products, meat or fish or from supplements.

"A pure, unbending vegan," her patient even refused to take the supplements, said Ortega. "It was as if she preferred to lose her sight... rather than betray her commitment to animals.”

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The term orthorexia nervosa was coined in the 1990s by the then alternative medicine practitioner Steven Bratman, a San Francisco-based physician.

To be clear, orthorexia is not an interest in healthy eating -- it's when enthusiasm becomes a pathological obsession, which leads to social isolation, psychological disturbance and even physical harm.

Managing Healthy Eating

But as is often the case in disorders that may have complex psychological causes, there is a strong debate as to whether the condition really exists.

The term is trending in western societies, prompting some experts to wonder whether it is being fanned by "cyber-chondria" -- self-diagnosis on the internet.

Orthorexia is not part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, set down by mental health professionals in the United States that is also widely used as a benchmark elsewhere.

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The situation, however, demands that there should be a clear understanding of your body's nutritional needs to ensure your food contains these needed nutrients that will keep you healthy.  

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