The Science behind Binge Eating and the Failure of Diets
Today, there is no shortage of potential diet options that people can people select in an effort to lose weight. With obesity affecting one-third of Americans, marketers realize the opportunity to capitalize on diet programs. However, many people experience a continued pattern of weight loss and weight gain when dieting. Conventional thinking has led many to believe that the problem is that those people cannot simply stick to a prescribed diet and change their eating habits in order to be successful with a diet plan. In early 2011, a research team conducted studies on obese individuals with clinical diagnosis of binge eating disorder, and obese individuals who were not binge eaters at the United States Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.
“The key difference we found between binge eaters and non-binge eating obese subjects was a fairly subtle elevation of dopamine levels in the caudate in the binge eaters in response to food stimulation,” said study lead author Gene-Jack Wang, a physician at Brookhaven Lab and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
“This dopamine response is in a different part of the brain from what we’ve observed in studies of drug addiction, which found dopamine spikes in the brain’s reward center in response to drug-associated cues. The caudate, in contrast, is believed to be involved in reinforcement of action potentially leading to reward, but not in processing of the reward per se. That means this response effectively primes the brain to seek the reward, which is also observed in drug-addicted subjects,” Wang said.
While many people tend to think people who struggle with obesity and binge eating are simply weak willed, it turns out that there can be greater forces at work than willpower alone. This newer line of thinking has created additional treatment options for people struggling to stop their binge eating habits, such as community support groups through Overeater's Anonymous, retreats, online support, and recovery programs, groups such as COR Retreat, and workshops. Many of the new programs teach abstinence from food that trigger eating binges and use methodologies that have proven to be successful in other recovery programs, such as the popular 12-step approach.
While no solution is guaranteed to work, the new types of programs provide additional options for people that previously may have bounced from fad diet to fad diet in an endless search for a sustainable solution.