Food for Thought
Because of the wealth of research on eating disorders in women, people often mistakenly think of these illnesses as exclusively female problems. However, binge eating—defined as eating excessive amounts of calories over short periods of time and often in private (but without purging, as in bulimia)—is a disorder that affects both men and women.
A study published last March in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that the medical impact of binge eating is just as damaging to men as it is to women, yet research has shown that the number of men seeking treatment is far lower than the estimated number of sufferers.
“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 Ruth H. Striegel, PhD, from Wesleyan University, Connecticut, in a press release. “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.”
As so few studies have included male subjects, and eating disorders continue to be widely seen as female issues, there is concern that men may be reluctant to seek treatment, or that healthcare providers may be less likely to detect a disorder in a male patient.
“The underrepresentation of men in binge eating research does not reflect lower levels of impairment in men versus women,” concluded Striegel. “Efforts are needed to raise awareness of the clinical implications of binge eating for men so they can seek appropriate screening and treatment.”