Striegel Study Will Change Binge Eating “Facts”

Ruth Striegel is the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences, professor of psychology.

Like all eating disorders, binge eating only affects women and teenaged girls, right?

Wrong.

An extensive new study that examined the eating habits of 21,743 men found that binge eating affected 1,630 of them. The rate, while slightly less than the number of women in the same study who experienced binge eating, reveals that this behavior is not limited to female populations. The results argue strongly for including men in future studies and treatment strategies.

Published in the Sept. 2011 issue of International Journal of Eating Disorders, the study, titled “Why Men Should be Included in Research on Binge Eating: Results from a Comparison of Psychosocial Impairment in Men and Women” was led by Ruth Striegel, Walter A. Crowell Professor of Social Sciences, professor of Psychology, and renowned eating disorder researcher.

Striegel and her team found that the health and medical implications of binge eating are just as damaging to men affected by this disorder as they are to women.

“Binge eating is closely linked to obesity and excessive weight gain as well as the onset of hypertension, diabetes and psychiatric disorders such as depression,” Striegel says. “However most of the evidence about the impact of binge eating is based on female samples, as the majority of studies into eating disorders recruit women.”

Striegel believed that solely recruiting women for these studies presupposed that men were not affected by such behavior. She undertook this research in part based on evidence from her previous studies suggesting this was not the case at all.

The study examined 46,351 people overall – 24,608 women and 21,743 men – for obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, depression and work productivity impairment. Within this sample, 2,754 women (approx. 11.2 percent) and 1630 men (approx. 7.5 percent) reported behavior consistent with binge eating.

“The underrepresentation of men in binge eating research does not reflect lower levels of impairment in men versus women,” Striegel says.

She adds that along with its negative impact on an individual’s health, binge eating can also reduce work productivity, suggesting the need for employers to recognize binge eating as a damaging health risk behavior alongside stress or depression.

“Efforts are needed to raise awareness of the clinical implications of binge eating for men so they can seek appropriate screening and treatment,” she says.