Stress, Deprivation and Exposure Lead to Binges
> 12/14/2005 10:27:28 AM

Two groups of researchers recently published their findings from studies on binge eating.  The first group examined food intake in relationship to the tastiness of food and satiety.  They found that in lab rats taste trumped their desire to eat.  When presented with a chocolaty cereal rats who were full hustled to eat as much as rats who had been placed on a diet.  Those full rats also ate nearly as much as the dieting rats.  This led researchers to the conclusion that flavor plays a key role in binge eating.

This hypothesis was confirmed by a group who varied brain chemistry (by blocking or turning on opioid receptors).  Those rats who were given butorphanol, a pain med, showed increased binge eating.  When these results were compared to control rats and rats who were deprived of sufficient food, researchers were able to conclude that the reward factor plays a more prominent role in bingeing than either stress or satiety.  This confirms the long held belief that even "just a bite" of a forbidden food can send a dieter into a binge.

In light of their findings, [Boggiano] says, “Highly palatable food can mimic opioid drugs by releasing opioids or activating sensitized receptors, so imagine what it can do in a human with a history of dieting. If only rat chow is available, even rats with a history of dieting when stressed rats don’t binge -- but when they get a little bite of cookie first, they do.” As a result, she says when treating bulimics and binge eaters, it may not be a good idea to introduce palatable (junk) food too early in therapy.

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