A team led by Dr Pamela Keel from Florida State University asked college women in 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012 to report their dieting and weight history.
The team then followed women 10-years later and examined the impact of dieting history on long-term health outcomes.
The younger a woman was when she started her first diet, the more likely she was to use extreme weight control behaviours like self-induced vomiting, misuse alcohol, and be overweight or obese when she reached her 30's.
While the cause of these outcomes is not determined here, discouraging weight loss diets in young girls may reduce risk for eating, alcohol, and weight-related problems in adulthood, researchers said.
Public health initiatives should promote behaviours that increase wellness in girls, such as increasing activity, decreasing leisure time watching TV and on computers, and consuming more fruits and vegetables, researchers said.
Such interventions may need to begin as early as elementary school to support girls as they enter puberty, a time when their bodies will naturally experience rapid growth, weight gain, and an increase in body fat, they added.