Binge Eating Among Severely Obese Children

Children who binge-ate had more depression, anxiety, and eating disorders symptoms than those who did not binge eat.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
September/October 2010 Volume 21, Number 5
©2010 Gürze Books

According to the CDC’s Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1% (JAMA 2010; 303:242).

There is ample evidence that vulnerability to obesity is a risk factor for binge eating in binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa (BN). While many studies have focused on adolescents and young adults, until recently less was known about patterns and causes of binge eating in children. A study at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has underscored the importance of seeking underlying binge eating when severely obese children are evaluated (Int J Obesity 2010; 34:1143).

Drs. J.E. Wildes and Marsha D. Marcus and colleagues recently evaluated the impact of binge eating on changes in percent overweight among 192 severely obese children aged 8 to 12 years (mean age: 10.2 years). The children were randomized to family-based behavioral therapy (intervention group) versus a control group that received usual care. Both groups had a mean body mass index (BMI) percentile of 99.2. A parent or guardian also participated with each child. Child psychological symptoms, including binge eating, were measured before randomization using self-report questionnaires. The child’s height and weight were measured at baseline and then at 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months. The primary outcome was percent overweight, or percent over median BMI for age and sex. According to the authors, 22 children, or 11.5% of the group, endorsed binge eating at baseline (Binge Eating Group).

Children in the binge eating group were younger and had more depressive, anxiety, and eating disorder symptoms, and had lower self-esteem than did children in the rest of the sample (No Binge Eating Group). Improvements in percent overweight in the intervention group relative to usual care were documented in the No Binge Eating Group only. Among children in the Binge Eating Group, those who were assigned to intervention had a 2.6% increase in percent overweight, on average, at the end of acute treatment, as compared to an 8.5% decrease among children without binge eating. However, these effects were not maintained during the follow-up period.

The authors note that their results suggest the importance of factoring in the possibility of underlying binge eating when developing weight management programs for severely obese children.

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed