UCSD gets DOD grant to study binge eating among veterans

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Department of Defense awarded the UC San Diego School of Medicine a $3 million grant Monday to study binge eating disorders among veterans and active-duty military members.

According to UCSD, roughly14 percent of active-duty personnel have a binge eating disorder. Among veterans, 65 percent of women and 45 percent of men have at least one symptom of a binge eating disorder. The condition is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder, according to UCSD, often resulting in obesity.

“Veterans and active-duty service members may be at increased risk for BED due to conditions during military service that encourage eating food quickly with increased stress and pressure and periods of deprivation,” said Dr. Kerri Boutelle, a UCSD professor and principal investigator of the study. “Even though there is a high prevalence of binge eating in the military, current treatment options are limited.”

The most common treatment for binge eating disorder is cognitive behavior therapy, with remission rates between 40 and 60 percent. However, behavior therapy fails to lead to significant weight loss and generally results in continued struggles with obesity, according to Boutelle.

UCSD researchers plan to use the grant on a regulation of cues study, targeting decreased sensitivity to hunger signals and increased sensitivity to external food cues. The subjects will, in theory, gain more control over detecting their fullness and resisting food in their immediately vicinity.

Researchers plan to draft 120 veterans with binge eating disorders into the five-month study.

“Our data suggests that ROC can reduce weight and obesity in civilians but has never been compared to CBT for binge eating disorder. While CBT focuses on changing thoughts and avoiding triggering cues to binge, ROC trains participants to tolerate physiological and psychological cravings and to stop eating when full,” Boutelle said. “We believe ROC can potentially provide a more effective and durable treatment for both BED and obesity for veterans. The goal is to help them manage their reaction to food when they are not hungry.”