(MIDDLETOWN, Conn.) -- Men are overlooked when it comes to diagnosing and treating binge eating, a disorder that affects four million Americans and has been historically associated with women, according to new research.
A study published Wednesday in the International Journal of Eating Disorders reveals that the condition is just as damaging to men, and yet they seek treatment less often.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is defined as having at least one episode a month of overeating with "a sense of loss of control," according to the study's lead author Ruth Striegel, professor of psychology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
Her team used cross-sectional data from a sample of 21,743 men and 24,608 women who participated in a health risk self-assessment screening. They found that 1,630 men (about 7.5 percent) and 2,754 women (11 percent) binge eat.
"Anytime we exclude a population, we are not learning about them," she said. "In a way, we are inadvertently giving the message that men don't have the problem, and they do."
"Data suggests that the impairment is basically just as bad in men as it is in women. Yet we focus only on women," Striegel said.
She estimates anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of all men experience the symptoms of binge eating. More women than men, however, report psychiatric symptoms like the "purging" associated with bulimia, according to Striegel.
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