Of all psychiatric disorders, eating disorders impact nutrition more than any other. Eating disorders include extreme attitudes, emotions and behaviors surrounding both food and weight issues. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. All are serious emotional and physical problems that can have devastating effects and life-threatening consequences. Eating disorders affect both men and women.
While eating disorders are less common in men, approximately 10% of those suffering from eating disorders are male. Studies also demonstrate that cultural and media pressures on men for the “ideal body” are the rise. This increased focus on body shape, size and physical appearance will likely contribute to increased numbers of eating disorder in males. Research indicates that eating disorders in males are clinically similar to eating disorders in females.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, being thinner is not always healthy. One of the unhealthy reasons people are underweight is eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders are currently in epidemic proportions, particularly among young women who are more prone to these problems (by a factor of 10) to men. There’s many theories as to why women are more prone to eating disorders than men, the most prevalent being the strong cultural influences women face regarding body image.
Why are so many women unhappy with their bodies? Women in the U.S. are under pressure to measure up to a certain social and cultural ideal of beauty, which can lead to poor body image. But that still leaves the question as to why women respond to the pressure to look good differently then men do.
The reason for this huge disparity may have to do with the way women process information, according to a Japanese study. According to researchers, the female brain responds differently than a man’s. The study revealed that the female brain responds more dramatically than the male brain when exposed to certain words concerned with body image.
Scientists conducting the study exposed 26 people (12 men and 12 women) to a series of tests in which they were a sked to read and score two sets of words; the first were unpleasant words that described body image and the second set were a set of neutral words.
At the same time, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to measure which parts of the brain became active during the experiment. In ther women, unpleasant words stimulated the amydgala, a sector of the brain that becomes active when we feel threatened. In men, however, the same part of the brain showed minimal activity during the test. Instead, the men used a part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex, associated with rationalizing information.
This still leaves the question as to whether the brain effects the way women think about body image or the way women think about body image effects the brain.