Outcome of Loss of Control of Eating in Childhood

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2011 Volume 22, Number 2
©2011 Gürze Books

Loss of control of eating (LOC) in children is associated with eating-related and psychosocial distress, and also predicts future excess weight gain. Loss of control of eating or inability to control the amount of food ingested at a meal, is a prime component of binge eating However, few longitudinal studies have examined how this loss of control evolves in children and its longer-term psychological impact. Dr. Marian Tanofsky-Kraff and colleagues reported the results of their follow-up study of 118 boys and girls 6 to 13 years of age with LOC eating in childhood at the Eating Disorders Research Society meeting last fall. The participants had self-described depression and anxiety.

Dr. Tanofsky-Kraff and colleagues administered an adapted version of the Eating Disorders Examination and questionnaires to assess depressive and anxiety symptoms, first at baseline and then nearly 5 years later. The researchers found that LOC eating persisted in nearly 50% of the subjects when they were teens. Adolescents who had ever reported LOC eating developed sub-threshold binge eating disorder (defined as at least 4 LOC episodes per month with 3 or more features of binge eating episodes defined by DSM-IV criteria). This finding was present even after accounting for sex, race, age, disordered eating attitudes, and depressive and anxiety symptoms, changes in body mass index from baseline to follow-up, and number of years in the study.

Forty-two percent of children who reported LOC eating at baseline also reported LOC eating at follow-up. Compared to children who never reported LOC eating or only reported it at baseline, those with persistent LOC eating experienced significantly greater increases in disordered eating attitudes and depressive symptoms over time. The results of the study suggest that LOC eating in childhood frequently persists into adolescence. And when LOC eating persists, it appears to be linked to worsening emotional distress.

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