Male version of eating disorder replaces purging with muscle enhancers

Physique concerns can drive young men to take banned substances

An unappreciated number of young men idealize muscularity so much that they may resort to taking growth hormones, steroids and other substances to add bulk to their physique.

Ken Colwell/FLICKR

Guest post by Bruce Bower

Among 16- to 22-year-old U.S. males, 7.6 percent report taking various potentially dangerous substances at least monthly to counteract what they regard as an alarming lack of muscularity.

Young men whose insecurities inspire them to use growth hormones, steroids and other body-altering chemicals represent the male counterpart of females whose idealization of thinness prompts them to induce vomiting and otherwise purge their bodies of food, proposes a team led by epidemiologist Alison Field of Boston Children’s Hospital.

Purging and other eating disorders occur mainly in girls and women. Boys and men so obsessed with muscles that they take substances prohibited in competitive sports are more numerous than researchers and clinicians realized, and have been overlooked, Field and her colleagues conclude November 4 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The researchers examined questionnaires that each of 5,527 males completed eight times between 1999 — at ages 12 to 18 — and 2010. Most participants were white and from middle-class families. No information on sports team participation was available.

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