TODAY |

Men's mental health in spotlight amid calls for Kiwi men to join eating disorder study

The New Zealand premiere of a BBC documentary about Freddie Flintoff’s 20-year struggle with bulimia is a timely one for researchers at the University of Otago in Christchurch.

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Researchers are striving to raise awareness for men with anorexia, binge eating and bulimia. Source: 1 NEWS

Freddie Flintoff: Living with Bulimia is a raw account of the former England cricketer’s ongoing battle with the eating disorder, which he says was triggered by negative publicity as he started out on his international career.

The now-43-year-old joins other high-profile identities, such as musician Ed Sheeran and former international rugby referee Nigel Owens, who’ve both confirmed suffering eating disorders in the past.

The celebrity connections to eating disorders have shone the spotlight on attempts by New Zealand researchers to recruit afflicted men to an international trial known as EDGI – the world's largest-ever genetic investigation that aims to identify genes that influence the risk of developing an eating disorder.

Co-lead researcher Jenny Jordan says men are needed to participate in the trial because their biology differs from female biology and could uncover different patterns and pathways useful in future treatment. Jordan says there is a public perception that women largely suffer from eating disorders but many men do too – often triggered in their teens by images online of unattainable body images.

Those interested in joining the trial can visit www.edgi.nz.

Participation involves signing up for an online trial and providing a saliva sample by mail.

Freddie Flintoff: Living with Bulimia is available on TVNZ OnDemand.