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Men Also Suffer from Eating Disorders

-- OFTEN WITH MORE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES

New research done by doctors at the University of Iowa and headed by psychiatrist Dr. Arnold Anderson shows that men with eating disorders had significantly lower bone density than women suffering with the same condition. Severe weight loss and a deficiency in essential nutrients, particularly calcium, can cause a serious decline in bone mineral density (BMD) leading to the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.

Anderson and his team assessed the BMD of 380 people (14% of whom were men) who had been admitted to the eating disorder clinic at the University of Iowa between 1991 and 1998. Three types of eating disorders were studied: anorexia nervosa, binge/purge anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa.

While all patients with these disorders showed BMD deficiencies, the researchers found that men, particularly those suffering from the binge and purge bulimia, had markedly lower bone density. The researchers suspect the serious drop in BMD for men is related to the male hormone testosterone, which is predictably lower in men suffering from eating disorders.

As the researchers explained, "Many patients are involved in contact sports or high-impact activities and need to be advised about appropriate exercise limitations until improvement in BMD is shown, to prevent fractures. On the other hand, moderate weight-bearing exercise without high impact aids in bone accretion, in addition to calcium and vitamin D intake."

The British Medical association recently blamed the media's obsession with super-thin models--men and women--for the proliferation in young people having eating disorders. In a hard-hitting report it urged magazines, advertising agencies, and fashion designers to set a better example by using more "averaged-sized" models so that young people would be shown a more realistic, healthy body image.

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