Boys as young as 10 turning to bulimia
Boys as young as 10 are turning to bulimia to lose weight, according to new studies in the UK that show the eating disorder is now more common among preteen boys than girls.
Doctors said an increasing number of young boys are making themselves sick after eating to avoid being bullied about their weight, despite the condition traditionally being associated with girls.
Some are even developing the disorder – which can be fatal – because they want to be able to fit into fashionable "skinny" jeans, while others are using laxatives to get a similar effect.
There are 5,000 reported cases of boys aged below 16 in Britain suffering from eating disorders according to NHS figures, but the real figure is thought to be significantly higher because many cases are likely to be undocumented.
A separate study of 16,000 children in Taiwan, published in Britain in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, found that sixteen per cent of boys aged 10 to 12 admitted inducing vomiting to lose weight after being bullied, compared with just ten per cent of girls.
Dr Yiing Mei Liou, who led the research, said these were likely to be "sedentary" children who spend large amounts of time watching television, surfing the internet or playing computer games.
A third study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in America reported that four per cent of schoolchildren admitted having used laxatives in the past month.
A spokesman for Beat, the eating disorders charity, said bulimia is more common than anorexia but is harder to spot because sufferers' weight remains more stable.
The condition is most commonly developed in the late teens or early 20s, especially when other attempts to lose weight have been unsuccessful.
A number of celebrities and public figures have admitted to suffering from the condition, including former Labour minister John Prescott, who developed the eating disorder in his younger years.
A Beat spokesperson told The Sun the findings were "very disturbing", adding: "An imbalance or dangerously low levels of essential minerals in the body can significantly, even fatally affect the working of vital internal organs."