So-called lads' magazines have spawned a generation of men obsessed with their bodies, according to new research.
Publications such as Men's Health, FHM and Loaded featuring muscular and impossibly good looking men can lead to readers developing a compulsive obsession to exercise.
The symptoms of the condition - dubbed "athletica nervosa" - include spending excessive amounts of time in the gym, running or swimming.
Previously, womens' magazines have come under fire over claims that they trigger the slimming disease anorexia by using images of slim, beautiful "size zero" women.
Winchester University psychologist David Giles has found that the malady is closely linked to men reading "laddish" magazines - and aspiring to possess the perfect male physique displayed by male models with "six-pack" stomach muscles on their pages.
"We found that the more such magazines a man reads, the more likely he is to be anxious about his physique."
Together with his co-author, Jessica Close, he interviewed 161 men aged between 18 and 36 and asked them which male magazines they read, and for how long.
In addition they assessed their diets, amount of exercise they take, and how they feel about their looks, in their study, entitled "Exposure to 'lad magazines', drive for muscularity in dating and non-dating young men".
Dr Giles said: "Men who read the most lads' mags seemed to internalise the appearance ideals portrayed by them.
"Models in these magazines are impossibly good-looking and seeing them can make readers anxious about their own bodies."
It is claimed that the magazines also trigger anxieties by saying that superb physical fitness is the only way to snare a good looking girlfriend.
The condition is most serious in single men, according to the researchers.
Dr Giles said: "All men who read these magazines were affected, but non-dating men much more so than those in stable romantic relationships.
"It could be that they become less anxious or it could be they just have less time to get to the gym when they have a partner."
At the same time lads' mags are spawning insecurity in young men, computer games featuring excessively muscular heroes is prompting young boys to worry about their bodies, further research claims.
Scientists at the University of Illinois has found that boys as young as eight who read video game magazines felt an urge to build their muscles.
The researchers, Kristen Harrison and Bradley Bond said: "Exposure to video gaming magazines predicted a significant increase in a drive for muscularity."
Athletica nervosa sufferers can damage their hearts, joints and muscles through excessive exercise.
People with severely affected by the disorder will exercise compulsively - even if they are feeling ill.
Fortunately, the disorder is treatable in 80 per cent of cases. Therapists try to re-establish a healthy relationship with food and exercise.
By COLIN FERNANDEZ - The Daily Mail -26th March 2008