Nationwide Study Puts New Focus on BED

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2007 Volume 18, Number 3
©2007 Gürze Books

Binge eating disorder, or BED, may not yet be officially classified as a psychiatric syndrome, but it may be more common than anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN), according to the results of the first nationally representative study of eating disorders in the U.S. This survey of more than 2,900 men and women showed a prevalence in the general population of 0.6% for AN, 1.0% for BN, but 2.8% for BED.

Dr. James I. Hudson and colleagues, who organized the study, also found that lifetime rates of eating disorders are higher in younger-age groups, suggesting that the problem is increasingly common. In addition, eating disorders are about twice as common among women as among men (Biol Psychiatry 2007; 61:348). Also, according to Dr. Hudson and his colleagues, binge eating was associated with obesity, particularly severe obesity. The diagnosis of BED requires that a person eat an excessively large amount of food over a 2-hour period at least twice a week for 6 months, feel a lack of control over the eating episodes, and experience marked distress about the binge eating.

Another finding was that eating disorders are commonly accompanied by other psychiatric illnesses; in this study, more than half of people with BN, 56% of those with AN, and 79% of those with BED had at least one other psychiatric diagnosis.

The largest limitation of the study, according to the authors, was that it was based on self-reports, and people tend to underreport problems with eating disorders.

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