BED: A Chronic or Temporary Condition?

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December 2005 Volume 16, Number 6
©2005 Gürze Books

Results of some studies have suggested that binge eating disorder (BED) may be only a temporary, nonspecific pattern of abnormal eating that will remit after a short time, such as 1 to 5 years. Others, studying different populations, suggest that BED may be a more chronic and stable disorder, like bulimia nervosa (BN).

James I. Hudson, MD, ScD, of Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital, Belmont, NY, and researchers at Columbia University, and the universities of North Carolina, Minnesota, and Cincinnati, sought to settle these conflicting findings by examining data from a family interview study in which they interviewed 888 first-degree relatives of 300 overweight or obese probands (150 had current or past diagnoses of BED and 150 had no history of an eating disorder) recruited from the community. They then compared the total lifetime duration of illness among relatives with lifetime diagnoses of BED (131), BN (17), and AN (18).

The duration of BED was longer than that of AN or BN

As Dr. Hudson reported at the Eating Disorders Research Society meeting in Toronto at the end of September, the mean duration of BED was 14.4 years—significantly longer than either BN (5.8 years) or AN (5.9 years). The authors suggest that BED is at least as chronic as the well-validated disorders AN and BN, and thus probably represents a stable syndrome.

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