Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gluttony most common eating disorder

Binge-eating may be more common than bulimia and anorexia combined:

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 study found that 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men struggle with binge eating...
The Harvard researchers found that about 2.75% of the population engages in
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.


Anonymous said...

As a percentage of the total population the numbers are negligible. Eating disorders are a sensationalized set of problems, obsessed over by the camera fiends who struggle with them, or are believe they do.

KK said...

Your post and especially your title makes me sad. BED is about more, way more, than just bingeing. I'm getting help now (the same help as any other eating disorder). Before though, I'd binge two to three times a week. The rest of the week I ate under 1000 calories. How does that fit into your perspective? It doesn't. Researchers are still debating as to whether or not BED is it's own thing or if it is Bulemia because so many of us do starve ourselves when we don't binge. I'm not a glutton. My binges have nothing to do with food. Please don't talk about things you a)know nothing about and/or b)have no sympathy for.

crush41 said...


Binge-eating, as defined, appears to be something you do.

I'm empathetic. I try not to be sympathetic, however, as it clouds my thinking.

If you read my ruminations, you see that I speculate that binge eating is more about a sense of anxiety and a need for protection/security more than eating as such. The title describes the act, not the motivation.