Eating disorders may look different in boys

1349598_74965855Eating disorders are not often associated with young males, but a new study suggests that they may actually be more common than thought. However, the manifestation of the eating disorder may look a little different than in females, involving the use of drugs and supplements to achieve a certain physique, specifically related to muscularity.

Researchers, led by Alison Field, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children s Hospital, used survey data from about 5500 boys, collected between 1999 and 2011, to assess the concerns teenage boys had about their bodies, as well as whether there was an association between eating disorders and drug and alcohol use later in life. The boys were between 12 and 18 at the start of data collection.

Overall, researchers found that nine percent of the boys surveyed were concerned about their body s muscularity, with two percent of those reporting the use of some type of supplement, growth hormone derivative or anabolic steroid. About six percent of those boys concerned with muscularity also reported being concerned about their body s thinness, although only 2 percent of boys were concerned only about thinness was just 2 percent. Furthermore, researchers reported that there was an association between boys who used these products to alter their bodies and the presence of binge drinking and drug use.

According to Field, The results of our studies would suggest we need to be thinking more broadly about eating disorders and consider males as well. She adds that the use of certain products to change appearance in these boys could be the equivalent of binge-and-purge disorders in females. She also suggests that doctors and parents should be aware of their patients or children s attempts to change their bodies to make sure it s being done for the right reasons and in a healthy way.

ACSH s Ariel Savransky adds, Eating disorders and how they affect males is a relatively new field of study, but the increasing prevalence of eating disorders seen in young boys makes it necessary to delve more deeply into this field. The fact that researchers are now starting to recognize that these disorders may manifest differently in males and females is a good first step in working to recognize and treat these disorders in the male population.