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Binge Eating Often Overlooked in Men

Researchers Say Men Are Often Not Included in Studies About Binge Eating
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 27, 2011 -- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are more common among women than men. Binge eating, however, occurs at similar rates among both sexes. Yet men are rarely included in research studies on binge eating and its consequences and treatments, a study shows.

The researchers analyzed data from 21,743 men and 24,608 women who participated in a health risk self- assessment. Binge eating in the past month was reported by 7.5% of men and 11.19% of women.

The study is published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Binge eating disorder is marked by:

  • Frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food in short periods of time
  • Feeling like you have no control over your eating
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating in secret

Many people feel ashamed and/or disgusted by their binge eating.

Health Risks of Binge Eating

There are serious health risks associated with binge eating. These include:

Both male and female binge eaters face these risks as a result of their behavior.

Just because men are underrepresented in studies about binge eating does not mean the problem does not exist, says Ruth H. Striegel, PhD, a psychologist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.

"Efforts are needed to raise awareness of the clinical implications of binge eating for men so they can seek appropriate screening and treatment," Striegel says in a news release.

Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD, agrees. She is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. "This is a very important topic," she says. As a result of the lack of research, men and even doctors are not aware of the prevalence and symptoms of eating disorders in men.

The stereotype of a man with an eating disorder is that of a wrestler who spends time losing weight before a match only to binge once wrestling season is over.

"Sports can be triggers, but we need to think beyond the stereotypes," she says. "It's more than just athletes. Eating disorders in men are pervasive."

It's not just binge eating either. Men may also have anorexia and bulimia, she says. "Sometimes they are being treated for depression, and the eating disorder is uncovered in therapy."

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