‘Bulk and Cut’ Dieting Linked to Symptoms of Eating Disorders and Muscle Dysmorphia
A new study, published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders—Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, has found that nearly one-half of men and one in five women, transgender, and gender-nonconforming participants engaged in a “bulk and cut” cycle in the past 12 months.
“Bulking and cutting”—a dietary technique characterized by alternating between periods of consuming surplus calories (bulking) and restricting calorie consumption (cutting) to optimize the growth of lean muscle mass and reduce body fat—is a practice that aligns with current body ideals. It’s especially prevalent among adolescents and young adults, particularly those within the fitness community and those striving to achieve a more muscular and toned body.
Analyzing data from more than 2,700 Canadian adolescents and young adults, the researchers found that engagement in bulking and cutting was connected with a greater desire to become more muscular among all groups of participants, underscoring the link between this dietary method and desires to change one’s body.
“Bulking and cutting is a common practice within the fitness community, and is popularized by social media,” says lead author Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, MSW, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “Given body ideals that focus on bulk muscularity and leanness in boys and men, it isn’t surprising that this dietary method was highly common in our sample, but it should also be noted that girls, women, transgender, and gender-nonconfirming participants also face unique pressures to adhere to specific body types. For girls and women, this ideal is transitioning away from the thin ideal to a toned and fit ideal.”
Few studies, however, have explored and characterized engagement in bulk and cut cycles or whether this dietary method is linked with the drive for muscularity and eating disorder and muscle dysmorphia psychopathology.
“Our findings also showed that engagement in bulking and cutting was associated with symptoms of eating disorders, as well as muscle dysmorphia, which is characterized as the pathological pursuit of muscularity, for men and women in the study,” Ganson says. “These findings are particularly salient given the documented increased prevalence of eating disorders and related behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The study illuminates the importance of greater awareness of this unique dietary method, which may go unnoticed by health care and public health professionals.
“It’s important that health care professionals screen for a vast array of dietary practices that may be harmful for young people, not just clinical eating disorder behaviors, like food restriction,” Ganson says. “We need to continue to research these forms of muscularity-oriented behaviors to better understand them and implement effective strategies to protect the health and well-being of Canadian young people.”
— Source: University of Toronto
Rising Food Prices Hit Less-Healthy Older Adults Hardest, Poll Suggests
Three-quarters of people over age 50 in the United States say the rising cost of groceries has affected them somewhat or a great deal and nearly one-third say they’re eating less healthfully because of increased food costs, according to new poll findings.
But food cost inflation has hit certain groups of older adults harder, the poll suggests—especially individuals who rate their physical or mental health as fair or poor and those in lower-income households or with fewer years of formal education.
The new findings come from a national poll conducted in late July by the University of Michigan (U-M) National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
“For our most vulnerable older adults, the huge increase we’ve seen in food costs could make a bad situation worse,” says Preeti Malani, MD, director of the poll and a physician at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center. “As the White House convened its Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health …, these new findings suggest a need for better support of the food needs of adults over 50.”
Michigan Medicine and AARP support the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
Food Cost Increases and Food Insecurity
More than one-third of people aged 50 to 80 say the rising cost of groceries has impacted them greatly, with 41% of those in their 50s and early 60s saying this compared with 30% of those aged 65 to 80.
Overall, the percentages emphasizing this were higher among those who rate their physical health as fair or poor (46%), those who rate their mental health as fair or poor (58%), those with household incomes under $30,000 (56%), and those who have a high school education or less (48%).
The pinch of inflation is having a direct impact on what foods older adults are buying. More than one-third (36%) of those aged 50 to 64 said their diet is less healthful because of rising costs, compared with 24% of those aged 65 to 80.
Across the entire poll population, the percentages saying they were eating less healthfully because of cost were higher among those who rate their mental health as fair or poor (54%), those with household incomes under $30,000 (48%), those who rate their physical health as fair or poor (46%), and those who have a high school education or less (40%).
Respondents also answered questions asking them to look back on the past 12 months, and say whether two statements were often true, sometimes true, or never true about their household. In all, 4% of older adults said it often was true that they worried that their food would run out before they got money to buy more, and 15% said this had been sometimes true. Meanwhile, just under 4% said this had happened to them often, and another 12% said it had happened sometimes in the last 12 months.
These experiences of food insecurity were more common among those in fair or poor physical or mental health and those with incomes under $30,000. Those who live alone also were more likely to say they had run out of food before they had money to get more.
Those who had experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months were three times as likely to say that they’re now eating less healthful diets because of the rise in food costs, compared with those who hadn’t experienced food insecurity (66% vs 22%).
The USDA’s data show that grocery costs rose 13% from July 2021 to July 2022, and predict a continued increase of another 10% in 2023.
The AARP Policy Institute recently published a report showing that in 2018, the majority of adults over 50, whose income qualified them for federal food assistance through the SNAP program, weren’t enrolled. The AARP Foundation offers assistance in understanding and applying for SNAP benefits.
Eating Habits and Body Weight
About one-third (32%) of adults aged 50 to 64 say they eat a well-balanced diet, compared with 44% of those aged 65 to 80. Those who have a college degree were much more likely to say their diet is well-balanced than those whose formal education ended with a high school diploma or less (48% vs 28%). The percentage calling their diet well-balanced was even lower among older adults who say their physical or mental health is fair or poor, at 23% and 16% respectively.
The poll also asked adults about their fruit and vegetable intake. In all, 38% agreed with the statement that they don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, but the percentage saying this was much higher among those in fair or poor physical health (51%), or fair or poor mental health (56%).
People who reported they don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables were more likely to report that their diet has become less healthful because of rising costs, compared with those who feel they do eat enough fruits and vegetables (40% vs 26%).
In another question about eating habits, 29% of older adults said they eat too many sweets—but much greater percentages saying the same were seen among those with high school educations or less (34%) or incomes under $30,000 (34%), those calling their physical health fair or poor (39%) and those calling their mental health fair or poor (49%).
Similarly, 19% of the total poll sample agreed that they don’t get enough vitamins and minerals. The percentage was higher among those with incomes below $30,000 (25%) and those who say they’re in fair or poor physical (30%) or mental (33%) health.
Asked about their weight, 39% of the entire sample said they were slightly overweight and 29% said they were overweight, while 25% said they’re about the right weight and 7% said they’re underweight. The percentages saying they’re overweight were higher among those reporting fair or poor physical health (47%), fair or poor mental health (37%) or incomes under $30,000 (37%). The percentage of people saying they’re underweight was highest among those with incomes under $30,000, at 13%.
This is the second time the National Poll on Healthy Aging has asked about food-related concerns among older adults. In December 2019, 14% of adults aged 50- to 80 answering the poll said their household has experienced food insecurity in the past year, and 42% of those respondents indicated that they or those they lived with had reduced the quality or quantity of food they buy because of limited resources. The poll also has reported on older adults’ experiences with cooking at home and eating out.
The poll report is based on findings from a nationally representative survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and administered online and via phone in July 2022 among 2,163 adults aged 50 to 80. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect the US population.
— Source: Michigan Medicine—University of Michigan