A six-year-old is the youngest boy to be treated for anorexia, a study reveals today. It also shows more young boys than girls are being treated for eating disorders such as anorexia.

Figures show 51 hospital admissions last year of boys under 11 with eating disorders and 36 admissions of girls.

Dr Jon Goldin, a consultant child psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "There is a whole range of eating disorders that young children suffer from, including compulsive overeating, food phobias or fear of swallowing, and refusing to eat.

"Young boys are more likely to be suffering from selective eating, where they will only eat a very narrow range of foods.

"You do rarely get some who have the problem into adulthood."

The statistics show that in 2003 hospitals made 93 admissions of boys under 10 with eating problems, compared with 21 admissions of girls. The number of individuals may be lower, with some children having multiple admissions.

Lib- Dem MP Sarah Teather, who obtained the NHS figures, said: "Young people are under pressure from all sides these days.

"It is time for a debate about how childhood is changing and politicians should be concerned about the type of issues teenagers are having to deal with at a younger and younger age."

A recent study by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health looked at more than 200 preadolescent children had suffered an eating disorder, of whom 37 were boys.

More than a third of the cases involved anorexia, including those of a six-year-old and an eight-year-old. From the age of two until he was six, Nicholas Pilcher ate nothing but cheese spread.

Even now, after years of successful treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the 15-year-old still struggles to eat vegetables and eats soft cheese on all his sandwiches.

His father Malcolm, 42, a BT product manager, said: "It was very tough. Nicholas used to starve himself rather than eat anything but Dairylea.

"It has been a long and complicated process. We never got a conclusion on why he ate the way he did."