Binge Eating Disorder and Diabetes (Part 1)


If you’re a regular reader of Diabetes Self-Management E-News[1], you’re probably familiar with the surveys that are featured in the newsletter. Maybe you’ve even participated in a few. Back in the fall, a survey was posted regarding "bad habits." Out of 130 responses, 50% of people responded that the bad habit they most wanted to tackle was binge eating. That’s a pretty high percentage. Hopefully, we’ll see this number drop during 2008!

In the spirit of the new year, new beginnings, and new habits, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into binge eating, or, as it’s more accurately termed, “binge eating disorder.” Binge eating disorder (BED) is defined as eating an excessively large amount of food over a two-hour period without being able to stop. Now, I don’t want to imply that munching on a bowl of chips during the Patriots game or polishing off half a bag of M&M’s in one go constitutes binge eating disorder. But because BED may be somewhat common in people with Type 2 diabetes, I thought that it would be a topic worth exploring a little further.

Here are some interesting facts about BED from a study published last year in the journal Biological Psychiatry:

The authors of this particular study noted that BED is a major health problem, yet physicians are not as aware of it as, say, anorexia or bulimia. This is due, in part, to the fact that those who suffer from BED tend to not display physical signs, other than maybe being overweight or obese.

What are the signs and symptoms of BED? If you’re wondering if you might have BED, ask yourself if you find yourself:

Many people with BED are overweight or obese, but not all. Some mental health experts speculate that because those with BED tend not to try and purge themselves of the excess food they’ve just eaten (as those with bulimia do), perhaps BED is really a type of obesity disorder, rather than an eating disorder. Others question whether BED is even really a type of disorder or condition, as opposed to a clustering of symptoms.

Despite the lack of consensus on whether it’s truly an eating disorder or not, the fact remains that about 2% of American adults (about 4 million) have BED. Furthermore, between 10% and 15% of people who are trying to lose weight either on their own or with the help of a commercial weight-loss program have BED. And BED is just as common among African-Americans as it is among whites.

Next week, we’ll look at possible causes of BED, why it may be more common in people with diabetes, and treatment options.

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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