Psychiatrists have called on the government to address the soaring numbers of websites which promote anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle choice rather than an eating disorder.
More than 15% of gay or bisexual men had at some time suffered anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder, or at least certain symptoms of those disorders, compared with less than five percent of heterosexual men.
Such websites, dubbed “thinspiration” sites, have become increasingly popular are have been blamed for contributing to a 90% increase of eating disorders amongst men.
The appeal coincides with the start of London Fashion Week, whose organisers have refused to rule out using ultra-thin models on the catwalk.
The April 2007 issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, suggested that gay and bisexual men and women may generally be at far higher risk for conditions like bulimia.
Despite being statistically more likely to take regular exercise and go to the gym, eating disorders in gay men are commonly overlooked and often remain hidden for years.
Professor Ulrike Schmidt, chairman of the college’s Eating Disorders Section, said: “Pro-ana and pro-mia websites advocate anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa as a lifestyle choice, rather than as serious mental disorders.
“Research shows that, viewing such websites induces low mood, low self-esteem and increased body dissatisfaction.
“The broader societal context in which pro-ana and pro-mia sites thrive is one where young [people] are constantly bombarded with toxic images of supposed perfection that are impossible to achieve.”
Professor Schmidt also criticised London Fashion Week, which starts on Friday, saying it could act as a showcase for “underweight women”.
She added: “We are very concerned that the lack of medical checks for models at London Fashion Week, coupled with working in an environment where being underweight is considered the norm, prevents models with eating disorders from gaining insight into their condition.”