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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Eating disorders 'hit men harder'
Osteoporosis is a threat for men with eating disorders
Men who suffer from eating disorders can be harder hit than women with the same problems, researchers say.

Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are more commonly associated with young women.

However, men can also suffer - and when they do the consequences can be severe.

Eating disorders are as common in men as in women, and are perhaps more severe

Dr Arnold Andersen, University of Iowa

Eating disorders are associated with a weakening of the bones, which become dangerously thin and brittle.

This is linked to severe weight loss and lack of essential nutrients, particularly calcium.

Low bone mineral density (BMD) can lead to osteoporosis, and an increased risk of fracture.

Until now there have only been isolated reports of male eating disorder victims suffering from the problem.

But new evidence published in The Lancet medical journal suggests that osteoporosis may be a worse hazard for men with these disorders than women.

A team of US researchers carried out an analysis of patient records submitted to the eating disorders unit of the University of Iowa hospital and clinics between 1991 and 1998.

They identified 14% of the cases as men. This falls within the expected ratio of one male with an eating disorder to between six and 10 females.

The men were divided into three groups, two with different sub-types of anorexia, and the third with bulimia.

The researchers, led by Dr Arnold Andersen, from the University of Iowa, found that the men in all three categories suffered from a lower BMD than the women.

Men with bulimia were significantly more deficient in BMD.

Dr Andersen said: "We provide evidence that eating disorders are as common in men as in women, and are perhaps more severe."

The researchers suspect the surprise finding in men is related to the male hormone testosterone which is lower in men suffering from eating disorders.

The researchers pointed out that men with low BMD needed to be warned about exercise limitations to prevent fractures.

They added: "On the other hand, moderate weight-bearing exercise without high impact aids in bone accretion, in addition to calcium and vitamin D intake."

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