Factors such as low self-esteem, poor body image and a perception of not meeting the modern ideal of masculinity are making more men to consume over-the-counter body building supplements. This behavior is what researchers believe is an emerging eating disorder.
Whey protein, creatine and L-cartinine are supplements used to improve athletic performance and physique. These supplements are sold in grocery stores, vitamin shops and online.
These supplements are popular among gym members who wish to increase energy and build lean tissue mass. But overuse is increasing and it is dangerous say researchers at Alliant International University in Los Angeles.
"Men are using the supplements in a way that is risky both to their physical health and their health in terms of relationships and their own emotional wellbeing," said Richard Achiro, of the California School of Professional Psychology at the university. "It is an expression, or variance, of eating disorder behavior in these men."
Among women a desire to be thin has lead to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, whereas men are aspiring for physique that is both lean and muscular and are using supplements to achieve it.
Overuse of products, which are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, can cause diarrhea, kidney disease and renal failure, said Achiro.
"Taken together low self-esteem and gender role conflict, which is an underlying sense of insecurity about one's masculinity, contribute more to the overuse of these products than body dissatisfaction alone," he explained.
In a study of nearly 200 men who took supplements in the past month, 29% expressed concern about using them. Eight percent accepted that their doctors told them to reduce or stop the use of supplements and 40% said their use had increased over time.
This study was presented at the American Psychological Association convention in Toronto. The excessive use of supplements as a form of eating disorder, was shown statistically by Achiro and co-author Peter Theodore.
"The way in which men's bodies are being objectified by the media is catching up rapidly to what has been done to women's bodies for decades. It makes sense to believe that as that occurs men's mental health and emotional issues are going to be expressed more and more in eating disorder behavior," he said.