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Is Addiction to Protein Supplements the New Eating Disorder for Men?

A new study suggests that male obsession with protein powder and supplements could be a disorder

An obsession with protein powder, shakes, and other fitness supplements could be the signs of an eating disorder, according to a new psychological study presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention. Until very recently, eating disorders were mainly classified as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. But it turns out that an obsession with healthy eating or staying fit could be psychologically harmful as well. A growing group of men obsessed with a “built” appearance — six-pack abs, broad shoulders and back, bulging biceps — could actually be compelled to overuse protein supplements in an effort to achieve a desired body type.

"Body-conscious men who are driven by psychological factors to attain a level of physical or masculine 'perfection' are evidenced to use these supplements and drugs in a manner that is excessive and which was demonstrated in this study to be a variant of disordered eating," the research team, led by Richard Achiro, of the School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, told CBS.

In the study, researchers surveyed 195 men between the ages of 18 and 65 who frequently use protein and other fitness supplements. According to the results, 29 percent of men surveyed admitted that they were “concerned” about their own supplement usage, 22 percent said that they have replaced meal with protein shakes, and 40 percent say that their supplement usage has increased steadily over time.

“What are these men compensating for?” asked Dr. Achiro in his report. “Feelings of impotence in relationships, work life, or both? It’s an underlying behavior men know is problematic, but are unable to change because so few of us men are open to addressing our emotional worlds and sense of inadequacy.”

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