Binge Eating Can Begin Early in Life

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2003 Volume 14, Number 3
©2003 Gürze Books

Binge eating without purging appears to affect from 20% to 50% of obese adults seeking treatment for obesity. Only a few studies have addressed binge eating disorder (BED) in obese children and teens. In these studies, the incidence of binge eating problems has ranged from 18% to 35% among boys, and 27% to 37% among girls.

Drs. V. Decaluwé and C. Braet, of Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, recently assessed 196 obese children and teens (10 to 16 years of age) who were seeking inpatient or outpatient weight-loss treatment (Int J Obesity 2003; 27:404). To evaluate the children, the investigators used the Child Eating Disorders Examination (ChEDE), which was designed for children. The first sample of 65 boys and 93 girls was recruited from a medical practice and included youngsters seeking inpatient treatment. The second sample included 13 boys and 25 girls seeking outpatient weight loss treatment at the Ghent University Hospital.

BED was rare, but disordered eating was common.

BED was rarely found among the study’s participants; in contrast, inappropriate compensatory behaviors were common. Only 2 subjects, both female, met the diagnostic criteria for BED, but 18(9%) had experienced at least one objective binge-eating episode during the previous 3 months. Seven study participants (3 females, 4 males) reported they had tried to control their shape or weight by self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic misuse or intense exercising over the previous 3 months.

Binge eating was more common among girls than among boys. Unlike the substantial gender differences noted in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, gender differences are less common among obese binge eaters.

The authors found that children with binge-eating problems have greater-than-normal concerns about their eating and shape and weight than children without such concerns. This underscores the importance of recognizing binge eating in obese children.

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