Binge Eating or Uncontrollable Overeating Might be Woeful for Obese Children

Binge Eating or Uncontrollable Overeating Might be Woeful for Obese Children

Binge eating is a pattern of disordered eating which consists of episodes of uncontrollable overeating. It is sometimes as a symptom of binge eating disorder. During such binges, a person rapidly consumes an excessive amount of food. Most people who have eating binges try to hide this behaviour from others, and often feel ashamed or depressed about their overeating.


Eating binges can be followed by so-called compensatory behaviour, acts by which the person tries to compensate for the effects of overeating. Examples of such acts are purging (induced vomiting or laxative abuse), fasting, and heavy exercising.

Although people who do not have any mental disorder may occasionally experience episodes of overeating, frequent binge eating is often a symptom of an eating disorder. Binge eating is a central feature of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. It is also practiced by some people with an eating disorder not otherwise specified or anorexia nervosa.

Overweight children who are prone to binge-eating can down hundreds more calories at a sitting than their peers, yet still feel hungry again soon after, a new study shows.

Researchers found that of 60 overweight 6- to 12-year-olds, those who said they'd ever binged before were more likely to overeat at a lunch buffet. Yet, the study found, these same children got hungry again more than an hour sooner than their peers.

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that out-of-control eating and a reduced sensitivity to fullness are feeding the weight woes of some children.

"Children who report binge-eating behaviors appear to have deficits in appetite regulation that put them at risk for the development of obesity," write Margaret C. Mirch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues.

Research shows that up to 30 percent of overweight children binge on occasion -- eating large amounts of food with a sense of being out of control.

Of the 60 children in the current study, 10 said they'd ever had a bingeing "episode." When the researchers presented the children with an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, those 10 children downed 400 to 600 calories more than their overweight, but non-bingeing, peers.

What's more, they were ready to eat again about an hour sooner.

It's possible, according to the researchers, that children with binge-eating problems respond more to external "cues" -- like the sight and smell of food -- than to physiological hunger signals.

They may also be prone to emotional eating, where people try to offset anger, sadness or other feelings by using food.

If so, Mirch and her colleagues note, teaching children how to recognize and respond to only true hunger signals may help them avoid binges and control their weight.

Binge eating disorder is probably the most common eating disorder. People who are obese and have binge eating disorder often became overweight at a younger age than those without the disorder. They might also lose and gain back weight more often. People who are not overweight should avoid dieting because it sometimes makes their binge eating worse. Dieting here means skipping meals, not eating enough food each day, or avoiding certain kinds of food (such as carbohydrates or fats).

Many people with binge eating disorder are obese and have health problems because of their weight. People with binge eating disorder who are obese may find it harder to stay in a weight-loss program. They also may lose less weight than other people, and may regain weight more quickly. (This can be worse when they also have problems like depression, trouble controlling their behavior, and problems dealing with other people.) These people may need treatment for binge eating disorder before they try to lose weight.

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