A common conviction is that binge eating manifests in response to excessive dietary restriction.
Restraint theory, which has gained significant support among researchers and clinicians, posits that dietary restriction increases the risk for the onset of binge eating and bulimic pathology (Polivy, & Herman, 1985).
While a review of dieting among children and adolescents is beyond the scope of this section, a number of studies have reported relationships between dietary restraint and binge (Stice et al., 1998, 2002) and LOC eating (Tanofsky-Kraff et al., 2005). However, findings across retrospective studies of adults with BED (Abbott et al., 1998; Grilo & Masheb, 2000, Marcus et al., 1995, Spurrell et al., 1997) and overweight children (Tanofsky-Kraff et al., 2005) that examine the age when the onset of dieting and binge eating occurs report that a significant number of individuals recall binge eating before they made attempts at dieting for weight loss. Future studies of pediatric binge eating exploring theoretical pathways other than restraint theory are warranted.
The emerging literature provides evidence that the prevalence of pediatric binge eating is substantial and appears to be associated with elevated psychological distress and overweight.
Similar to binge eating disorder among adults, binge eating among youths does not appear to discriminate between races, ethnicity, or sex. Given the inconsistencies of findings across studies, further research is required to elucidate the construct of binge eating during childhood and adolescence.
Nevertheless, since reported binge eating during childhood and adolescence is likely a risk factor for continued excessive weight gain, interventions targeting binge eating may serve as a viable approach toward reducing the current obesity epidemic (Yanovski, 2003).
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD 20892.
This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, grant ZO1-HD-00641 (NICHD, NIH) to Dr. J. Yanovski.