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Even Steroid-Free Bodybuilders Focus on Image

Weight trainers show signs of disorder called muscle dysmorphia, study finds

MONDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Body image concerns affect both male bodybuilders who use steroids and those who don't use the muscle-building drugs, new research has found.

In the study, an Arkansas researcher looked at the incidence of muscle dysmorphia among competitive bodybuilders, non-competitive weight trainers and collegiate football players. Muscle dysmorphia is a disorder characterized by excessive preoccupation with muscularity and body fat percentage.

The participants filled out a questionnaire designed to assess whether they had muscle dysmorphia and, if so, to what degree. The football players had the lowest scores. Males who used weight training to improve their physique, but weren't bodybuilders, had some characteristics associated with muscle dysmorphia, including dissatisfaction with their size and symmetry.

"This is an important finding, because it shows that someone doesn't have to be big and buff to have concerns about how muscular they are or how much body fat they have," study author Timothy Baghurst, a visiting assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Arkansas, said in a news release from the university.

For the study, published in the June issue of Body Image, Baghurst classified bodybuilders as natural or non-natural. In natural bodybuilding competitions, participants are drug-tested and must pass a lie detector test meant to confirm that they don't use prohibited drugs. In non-natural competitions, participants aren't drug tested and don't have to pass a lie detector test.

"Most people will assume bodybuilders using steroids are those with muscle dysmorphia," Baghurst said. "By separating natural and non-natural bodybuilders, I found that either group is equally likely to have all of the traits of muscle dysmorphia with the exception of pharmacological use."

More information

The National Eating Disorders Association offers ways for males to boost body image.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Arkansas, news release, June 30, 2009

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