SAN DIEGO, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Increases in men replacing meals with legal appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs, or APEDs, such as protein powders and bars, have led researchers to recognize it as a variant of disordered eating.
Researchers at Alliant International University presented a study at the 2015 American Psychological Association's annual convention suggesting lean and muscular male body ideals perpetuated by the media are contributing to internalized body dissatisfaction.
"Men's bodies are increasingly objectified in modern society, a phenomenon that has co-occurred with the rise of body dissatisfaction and concomitant eating pathologies among males," researchers wrote in the study. "Nevertheless, masculine body image ideals often remain unaccounted for in body image and eating disorder research which predominantly conceptualizes these issues based on a drive for thinness, rather than simultaneous drives toward being both lean and muscular."
Researchers in the study recruited 195 men between the ages of 18 and 65 who had consumed some form of APED such as whey protein or creatine in the previous 30 days and worked out for at least twice a week. The participants completed a survey about body image, self-esteem, eating habits and gender role conflicts.
On the use of supplements, 40 percent of participants said their use of supplements increased over time, 22 percent had replaced regular meals with supplements, and 29 percent were concerned about their use of them. Additionally, 8 percent of the men said a doctor had told them to cut back on use and 3 percent had been hospitalized with kidney or liver issues related to supplement use.
Dr. Richard Achiro, a professor of psychology at Alliant International University, who presented the research, said the marketing efforts for many of supplemental products, from powdered creatine to protein bars, are tailored to address issues of masculinity as defined by popular culture. Specifically, he said, body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and gender role conflict contribute directly to the growing problem.
"Body-conscious men who are driven by psychological factors to attain a level of physical or masculine 'perfection' are prone 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," Achiro said. "As legal supplements become increasingly prevalent around the globe, it is all the more important to assess and treat the psychological causes and effects of excessive use of these drugs and supplements."