Body Shape Can Increase Risk of Binge Eating Disorder

November 24, 2015

Every once and a while, we overeat. It may be that extra plate at Thanksgiving dinner, or a few extra helpings of pasta at your favorite Italian bistro. And when you overeat, oh boy, does your body let you know it.

For most people these moments of overindulgence are few and far between. But for some, this kind of eating is a normal occurrence. When overeating becomes an uncontrollable, regular event, it may mean a diagnosis of binge eating disorder, or BED.

BED can seriously impact a person’s emotional and physical health. In fact, it’s the most common eating disorder in the US, affecting an estimated 8 million Americans. Many studies have examined psychological factors that may cause this condition, but none have investigated possible physical causes – like body shape and body composition- until now.

A new study from Drexel University found that people with apple-body types may be prone to binge eating. The apple body shape means storing most excess fat in the abdominal, or belly, area. Over the course of two years, researchers examined the weight, body fat percentage, and fat distribution of 300 women. They discovered that women who carried the most fat around their waist had the most incidences of out-of-control eating, where they binged on unhealthy foods. The findings demonstrated a vicious cycle of body fat and binge eating.The more food the women binged on, the more fat they stored in their midsections. This additional fat then triggered the desire to continue to binge.

Belly fat can wreak havoc on your health, and this study demonstrated just how dangerous it is compared to fat located elsewhere in the body. Researchers found that a one-unit increase in the percentage of body fat stored in the abdominal region was associated with a 53 percent increase in the risk of binge eating, whereas total body fat percentage did not predict binge eating development.

Although more research needs to be conducted to better understand the relationship between abdominal fat and binge eating, researchers offer a reason why these episodes of uncontrolled eating may happen. It may come down to hunger hormones being out of whack.

The primary hormone researchers suspect is at play in the relationship between body shape and BED is leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells your body that you’re full and it is time stop eating because your fat storage is at proper levels. However, those who are overweight or suffer from obesity often develop a resistance to leptin, which disrupts the I’m hungry  I’m full metabolic cycle. Although the study didn’t examine hormones specifically, the researchers believe that fat stored in the belly may alter the hunger and satiety messages it sends, making a person feel out of control while eating.

This research is very important in that it highlights a very achievable and manageable way to reduce the risk of developing BED. And that way is effective weight loss and long-term weight maintenance. There are many factors that contribute to BED. Finding support for both emotional and physical health is the best way to prevent binge eating.

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