Military Advantage

DOD, VA & UCSD Study New Treatment For Binge Eating

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The University of California, San Diego has received a $3 million grant from the DOD to study Binge Eating Disorder treatments in veterans and active duty military.

Studies show that eating disorders affect members of the military at a high rate, with approximately 19 percent of active-duty women and 14 percent of active-duty men meeting the criteria for binge eating disorder. In addition, approximately 65 percent of female and 45 percent of male veterans report one or more symptoms of binge eating. Children of military families also reported similar conditions at a significantly higher rate than the civilian population.

The majority of these individuals are overweight or obese, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a measured body mass index of 25 or higher.

Binge Eating Disorder is a complex condition that affects the brain and the body. It is usually characterized by recurring episodes of consuming large quantities of food, often quickly and to the point of discomfort.

Those affected by Binge Eating Disorder usually have higher health-care costs resulting from obesity or associated conditions such as bulimia or other eating disorders.

In the past, those with Binge Eating Disorder have been treated using cognitive behavior therapy. which focused on changing thoughts and behaviors to reduce harmful acts.

However, cognitive behavior therapy also has remission, or failure, rates of 40 to 60 percent, and often fails to produce significant weight loss. Therefore, those with the condition often continue to struggle with obesity and other medical and psychological problems related to their condition.

They often fail and end up worse off then before.  

With this DOD funding, the UCSD School of Medicine will partner with the VA San Diego Healthcare System to study treatments for Binge Eating Disorder including a new treatment model called Regulation of Cues, which targets two underlying mechanisms associated with binge eating and obesity: decreased sensitivity to internal hunger signals and increased sensitivity to external food cues.

This new treatment trains participants to detect their hunger and fullness to stop eating earlier and to resist tempting foods in the environment through education and learning through experience.

The clinical trial will enroll 120 veterans who have been diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder and obesity. Participants will be randomly assigned to a five-month Regulation of Cues or Cognitive Behavior Therapy program. Their progress will be monitored and the results will be compared during and at the completion of treatment, as well as six months after treatment has completed.  The study should shed light on which treatment works best for each group, sex, and age group, and researchers hope to develop a regimen of treatment that will be successful and easy to adapt to different groups.

This study has the potential to substantially change the treatment for Binge Eating Disorder and has shown more success than currently available treatments. Researchers say this type of treatment can be easily used in the military and veteran community where normal civilian treatments are often not successful due to their different lifestyle and living conditions they face.

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