Gay men are at a high risk from eating disorders according to figures from the Scottish Executive.

The report shows a seven fold increase in the number of men in Scotland suffering from the eating disorder bulimia nervosa over the past five years. Gay men are highlighted as a group under particular risk.

Figures show about 10 per cent of people being treated for eating disorders in the UK are male but experts believe the true figure is closer 25 per cent. Last year an estimated 80 men aged between 15 and 75 sought help – a huge increase from the ten who came forward in 2000-1.

Steve Blumfield, head of communications at the Eating Disorders Association said what appeared to be an increase in males suffering from eating disorders such as bulimia might reflect doctors’ improved ability to recognise the disease. He told the Scotsman: “For a long time bulimia cases were overlooked and undiagnosed.”

“It can be difficult to spot because when a doctor asks a male patient about his diet it may appear light but not particularly odd.”

“Doctors may see what appears to be a fit and healthy young man with a lot of muscle and not realise how much over-exercising the patient is doing.”

“Men may present all the conventional symptoms of an eating disorder but their GP might decide to send them for HIV tests because they are not seeing beyond the body image and asking the correct questions.”

“Another group of men in the gay community are also at risk because bulimia tends to develop at times of stress. This often coincides with making the decision about ‘coming out’.”

The disease, which is usually associated with teenage girls, can be unnoticed in men for longer than in women because weight loss and strict adherence to a punishing exercise and diet regime are seen to be part of a sporty lifestyle.