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Are you addicted to food? Study asks if binge eating is an addiction

CALGARY – Binge eating disorder is now considered the most common type of eating disorder, impacting up to five per cent of women and two per cent of men.

“It involves eating large amounts of food in a short period of time, accompanied by a sense of a loss of control,” said Sarah Farstad, a clinical psychology PhD student at the University of Calgary.

Farstad says it can be difficult to treat binge eating disorder because it’s not known if people who engage in binge eating are actually addicted to food.

“Right now a lot of people consider eating disorders–and especially binge eating–to be similar to other addictions, but we don’t actually know whether they’re the same thing,” said Farstad.

“What we’re trying to do is compare women who binge eat to women who gamble on the way they manage their emotions to try to find out if there are similarities between the two potentially addictive behaviors.”

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Farstad is currently recruiting women to take part in her research.  Anyone over the age of 18 who has experienced episodes of binge eating at least once a week for three months or more may be eligible.  She is also recruiting women who feel they are addicted to gambling.

Eligible participants will take part in a ten-minute phone interview before being asked to fill out four online surveys over the course of six months.

Farstad says understanding whether or not binge eating is an addiction is important towards finding an effective form of treatment.

“The traditional treatment for binge eating would say you should never totally restrict certain foods, but the addiction model is quite different. It says you should absolutely restrict foods thought to be triggers, so often people will totally restrict things like sugars or flours.”

Anyone interested in participating in the online study can contact Sarah Farstad at eating@ucalgary.ca or (587) 227-1088. You do not need to be a Canadian resident to participate.

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