A new survey by researchers at Harvard University finds that frequent binge eating is the nation's most prevalent eating problem, outpacing better-known disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. The results come from what researchers say is the first national census of eating disorders. ...The Harvard researchers found that about 2.75% of the population engages in
The study found that 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men struggle with binge eating...
regular binge-eating (defined as eating to the point of being uncomfortably full more at least twice a week over a period of three months). A little over 1% of people are thought to be afflicted by anorexia, and an estimated 1.4% are bulimic.
This isn't surprising, as binge-eating is an understandable maladaption to a society of plenty. The ability of our fat cells to store energy has obvious evolutionary benefits, but they've become antiquated amongst the contemporary affluence of the developed world. That binge-eating is thought to be related to things like stress, anger, and depression, makes it understandable as a defense mechanism--when the going gets tough, it's time to store up.
The primarily gynecological dual eating disorders, bulimia and anorexia, make biological sense only as a means of boosting desirability with regards to sexual selection (there's a cultural component as well, of course). Consequently, they are relegated mostly to women. While some 1 in 50 men suffer from binge-eating, only 1 in 400 are bulimic and 1 in 500 are anorexic.
The impulse to eat doesn't mesh well with the need to eat for most people in a society that increasingly rewards brains over brawn. Until effective gene therapies allow for control of those consumption impulses, the best way to avoid eating disorders (and simple corpulence) is on the expenditure side--exercise regularly. There are lots of exercise machines like elipticals that give a vigorous workout while allowing for reading or watching TV. Use them.