3% of Americans Are Binge Eating
Survey Shows Uncontrollable Binge Eating Is the Most Common Eating Disorder
WebMD News Archive
Binge Eating and Bulimia
Unlike people with bulimia -- a closely related eating disorder -- people
with binge eating disorder don't purge by vomiting or laxative abuse.
But Pope said that while the two conditions are distinct, there is a
"My experience after several hundred interviews is that [bulimia and
binge eating] are closely related, and it is not uncommon for a person to morph
from one to the other," he said.
"Some people have pure bulimia and have always purged and are focused on
keeping their weight low," Pope said. "And then there are those in the
intermediate category, who occasionally purge. And particularly there are
people who are older, whose binge eating came on at a later age, who never
thought of purging or just could not get themselves to do it."
Purging, of course, carries its own health risks. But people with binge
eating disorder tend to become morbidly obese.
And as binge eating disorder is now known to be much more common that
previously thought, it is a big part of the obesity epidemic.
The good news is that eating disorders are treatable.
"We are faced with this incredible obesity epidemic," Bulik said.
"We have to ask ourselves what we have in our arsenal to reverse this
"Binge eating is one of those modifiable behavior factors we can focus
on as one tool in our arsenal to combat obesity epidemic," she said.
"This points to a very substantial minority that we can work with to reduce
obesity in a segment of the population."
What Are the Treatments?
"There are basically three forms of treatment," Hudson said.
"One is psychological treatment, especially cognitive and behavioral
techniques. This has been effective for binge eating, less so for losing
weight," he said.
"The second is medications, especially topiramate [Topamax] and
sibutramine [Meridia]," Hudson noted.
"And finally, for individuals with severe obesity, there are surgical
procedures, but those are reserved for more severe cases," he said.
Surprise Anorexia Finding
In addition to yielding the first hard data on the extent of binge eating
disorder, the survey turned up another surprising finding: Many people with
anorexia have a mild version of the disorder.
"This study shows anorexia is not invariably chronic and severe --
although it often is, and I don't want to suggest it cannot be a devastating
condition," Hudson said. "But for every anorexia case that comes into
the hospital, our data suggests that there are other cases that get better
Hudson said the finding suggests treatment could be improved by finding out
which factors are linked to quickly getting over anorexia, and which factors
are linked to more severe, chronic anorexia.