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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Binge eating is the most common eating disorder, McLean study shows

Binge eating disorder affects more American adults than anorexia and bulimia combined, a study from McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School finds, making it a "major public health problem."

Binge eating behavior also tends to last longer, spanning about eight years compared with an average of 1.7 years for anorexia, the Harvard authors write in Biological Psychiatry.

About 5.9 million people in the United States could have a binge eating disorder at some point in their life, Dr. James I. Hudson and his co-authors say. That compares with 1.3 million cases of anorexia and 2.1 million cases of bulimia, based on data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. The survey asked 9,000 people across the United Sates about their mental health.

Binge eating, defined as repeated bouts of uncontrolled eating, appears to be a cause for severe obesity. People with anorexia fear being overweight so much that they eat very little. Bulimics overeat but vomit after to avoid weight gain.

Binge eaters continue to gain weight, becoming morbidly obese, with a body mass index of 40 or greater. For a 5-foot-6-inch woman, that BMI would mean 248 pounds; for a 5-foot-9-inch man, 270 pounds.

"If we can identify and treat the underlying cause of this behavioral disturbance, we may be able to make an impact on the obesity epidemic," Hudson said. "This is a major public health problem."

Hudson reported receiving funding for the eating disorders analysis from OrthoMcNeil Neurologics, which has tested its antiepilepsy drug, topiramate, for effectiveness in binge eating disorder.

The national survey's funders included Eli Lilly and Co.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 07:08 AM
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