Binge Eating Biology

We often blame societal pressure, advertisements, magazines, and beauty campaigns for the fact that eating disorders are more common among women than men. It turns out, however, that biology may also be a culprit of this discrepancy, at least when it comes to binge eating. Although it is difficult, or even impossible, to nullify societal influences when examining eating disorders in humans, research findings from Michigan State University used rats to study sex differences outside the context of culture. Over two weeks, researchers offered rats food pellets versus vanilla frosting, and it turned out that the rate of binge eating “proneness” was up to six times higher in female rats than male rates. Kelly Klump, who headed this research, suggests that these findings may be indicative of a sex-related difference in the brain’s natural reward system. While we do have to be sensitive to the messages society sends to girls and women, at the same time, this research has some major implications for etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of eating disorders in women versus men.