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Prevalence of binge-eating disorder in obese children and adolescents seeking weight-loss treatment

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present study was to examine the extent to which a population of obese children and adolescents developed binge-eating disorder (BED).

METHOD: A sample of 196 obese children and adolescents (aged 10–16 y) seeking weight-loss treatment at two treatment facilities (inpatient and outpatient treatment) was screened using the eating disorder examination.

RESULTS: Only 1% of the subjects met the criteria for BED and 9% were found to have objective bulimic episodes (OBEs, overeating with loss of control), but did not endorse all of the other DSM-criteria that are required for a diagnosis of BED. OBEs were more common in girls than in boys. Episodic overeating was more common than binge eating. Compared to children without OBEs, children engaging in OBEs were more overweight and showed a greater eating-related psychopathology. The age of the first OBE was 10.88 y (s.d.=2.60). It appears that overweight precedes binge eating.

DISCUSSION: A subgroup of girls and boys seeking treatment for obesity shows considerable eating difficulties. The results highlight the importance of considering binge-eating symptoms when devising treatment programmes for children and adolescents suffering from obesity.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by a doctoral fellowship awarded to the first author by Special Research funds, Ghent University. The authors thank Christopher G. Fairburn for his comments and the staff of the Zeepreventorium De Haan and the Youth Obesity Clinic of Ghent University Hospital.

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Correspondence to V Decaluwé.

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Decaluwé, V., Braet, C. Prevalence of binge-eating disorder in obese children and adolescents seeking weight-loss treatment. Int J Obes 27, 404–409 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0802233

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