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Men excluded from research on binge eating

Issue viewed as female problem; men deterred from seeking help

Caroline White

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The physical and psychological impact of binge eating is no less damaging for men than it is for women, finds a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Yet because eating disorders are widely seen as female problems, men are not included in research. And healthcare professionals may be less likely to screen for eating disorders in male patients, say the authors.

Health services report that the number of men who receive treatment for binge eating is well below what would be expected based on estimates of prevalence.

The research team analysed cross-sectional data from a sample of 21743 men and 24608 women who participated in a health risk self-assessment screening.

The team looked at rates of obesity, high blood pressure, lipid disorders, diabetes, depression and impaired productivity.

The team found that 1630 of the men and 2754 of the women were binge eaters, defined as having had at least one binge episode in the previous month. The impact on physical and mental health as a result was comparable between the two sexes.

“Binge eating is closely linked to obesity and excessive weight gain as well as the onset of hypertension, diabetes and psychiatric disorders, such as depression,” said lead author Dr Ruth Striegel.

“However most of the evidence about the impact of binge eating is based on female samples, as the majority of studies into eating disorders recruit women,” she added. “The underrepresentation of men in binge eating research does not reflect lower levels of impairment in men versus women.”

The findings also indicated that binge eating has an impact on productivity in both men and women, suggesting the need for employers to recognise binge eating as a health risk alongside stress or depression.

“Eating disorders still go largely undetected and untreated, but especially so in men. Public health campaigns are needed to increase awareness of the psychosocial impairment associated with eating disorders and address negative attitudes or misconceptions about binge eating and its treatment,” conclude the authors.

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