Overeating, binge eating linked to marijuana use

Overeating and binge eating may be associated with initiating use of marijuana and other drugs, according to a study of adolescents and young adults.

Binge eating is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) as eating an amount of food that is larger than most people would eat in a similar period under similar circumstances and feeling a lack of control over eating during the episode, according to background information in the study, which appeared Dec. 10 on the website of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Kendrin R. Sonneville, ScD, RD, of Boston ChildrenÂ’s Hospital, and colleagues examined the association between overeating (without loss of control) and binge eating (overeating with loss of control) and adverse outcomes such as overweight/obesity, depressive symptoms, frequent binge drinking, marijuana use and other drug use.

The study included 16,882 boys and girls who were ages 9 to 15 in 1996 and participated in the Growing Up Today Study. Overeating and binge eating were assessed by questionnaires every 12 to 24 months between 1996 and 2005.

Binge eating was more common among females than males, with 2.3% to 3.1% of females and 0.3% to 1% of males reporting binge eating between the ages of 16 and 24.

Any overeating, with or without loss of control, predicted the onset of marijuana and other drug use. Binge eating was associated with incident overweight/obesity and the onset of high depressive symptoms in fully adjusted statistical models. Neither overeating nor binge eating appeared to be associated with starting to binge-drink frequently.

“Findings from this investigation and previous research suggest that LOC [loss of control] is an important indicator of severity of overeating episodes and highlight the importance of ascertaining LOC, in addition to whether adolescents engage in overeating episodes,” the authors concluded.

“Given that binge eating is uniquely predictive of some adverse outcomes and because previous work has found that binge eating is amenable to intervention, clinicians should be encouraged to screen adolescents for binge eating.”

The study abstract is available at http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1476811.

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