Binge Eating Linked To Biology, Higher Rates Among Females

By Hilda Scott , May 01, 2013 01:08 PM EDT

New research provides evidence of how biology is linked to eating disorders. Feeding experiments found that compared to male rats, female rats a more likely to take part in binge eating.

This new study becomes the first to show that biology is a factor of binge eating. The difference in binge eating rates found in male and female animals has implications for humans.

Binge eating consists of episodes of consuming excessive amounts of food. Females are 4 to 10 times more likely to have an eating disorder, which include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

"Most theories of why eating disorders are so much more prevalent in females than males focus on the increased cultural and psychological pressure that girls and women face. But this study suggests that biological factors likely contribute as well, since female rats do not experience the psychosocial pressures that humans do, such as pressures to be thin," lead author and professor of psychology at MSU, Kelly Klump said

For the study, the researchers conducted a two-week feeding experiment with 30 female rats and 30 male rats. The rodents' food pellets were replaced with vanilla frosting periodically. Results of the experiment indicated that the female rats were more prone to binging than the male rats. The female rats had the tendency to consume more amounts of frosting during all of the feeding tests.

"This research suggests there is probably a biological difference between males and females that we need to explore to understand risk factors and mechanisms," Klump said in the study is published online in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

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