By Deborah Fields, BSc (Hons), PgDip, MCIPR
Binge eating disorder (BED), a condition where a person repeatedly eats significantly more food over a certain period of time without purging, can cause major health risks for the individual. The risks of BED can be both physical and psychological for the patient.
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Binge-eating on a regular basis can increase the weight of a patient and contribute to them being at risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease where the body cannot respond effectively to sudden rises in high blood sugar. The condition does not develop overnight but can progress over a period of time.
With regular binge-eating, the body will eventually not produce enough insulin to respond to an increase in the blood sugar triggered by the sudden high rise in calories. This can make the person who is binge eating feel even more hungry and lead to them eating yet more food. It can take time for the insulin in the body to reach a certain level in response. When it does, this also can also cause feelings of hunger.
Foods eaten during binge-eating that can easily contribute to this dangerous development are ones that are high in carbohydrates such as potatoes, cakes, sweets or white bread.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes joint stiffness and pain. People with BED can be at risk because of the extra pressure they put on their joints because of increased weight. The condition can improve for the patient if they can find a healthy way of reducing their weight. The severity of the condition can vary between people.
High blood pressure
BED can be a contributing factor in high blood pressure. Consistent high blood pressure over a period of time can make someone at higher risk for a life-threatening stroke or heart attack. Typically, a reading of systolic blood pressure above 140 mmHg and diastolic pressure above 90 mmHg can be dangerous, as well as the rise of only one of these figures. About 12.8% of all deaths globally each year can bea result of a high blood pressure..
BED can increase the cholesterol levels in your blood. Cholesterol is a type of fat in the body that helps it to work properly. If there is too much of it, however, it can contribute to strokes, atherosclerosis (thickening of the artery wall) and heart attacks. Foods that can increase cholesterol tend to have high levels of saturated fats (such as butter, full fat cheese, ghee and meats).
BED may also encourage the development of cancer in some people. Increases in sugar and carbohydrate levels have been linked to increases in more severe forms of breast cancer (those without estrogen or progesterone receptors) in some populations.
Gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Binge eating can trigger or make gastro oesophageal reflux disease, a condition where acidic or non-acidic contents of the stomach rise back into the oesophagus, worse in some people. It can cause chest pains, heart burn, sore throats, difficulty swallowing to name a few symptoms. Unchecked and untreated, this can also result in some pre-cancerous conditions.
A person’s mental health can also suffer further through binge eating. Their eating habits can make them feel bad about themselves. They may also experience social isolation and live a restricted lifestyle. Other potential psychological effects include really bad episodes of anxiety, self-harm and even suicide attempts.
Reviewed by: Dr Tomislav Meštrović, MD, PhD
Last Updated: May 19, 2016