Binge Eating: Is Your Body Clock the Cause?


CINCINNATI, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— An estimated 2.8 million Americans struggle with binge eating disorder. People with the disorder often eat large amounts of food in a short period and feel guilty and unable to stop. Now, researchers want to know more about the role of the body’s sleep-wake cycles, known as the circadian clock.

Food fuels our body and gives us energy but for thousands of Americans eating is an unhealthy obsession.

“Binge eating disorder is the most prevalent eating disorder, and unfortunately there’s still very limited options or targeted options,” explained Francisco Romo-Nava, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist at Lindner Center of Hope at the University of Cincinnati.

(Read Full Interview)

Dr. Romo-Nava and his colleagues are working to learn how an individual’s body clock plays a part.

“Among the population, it’s estimated that between ten and 15 percent of the population will be morning type, clearly morning types. Then most of the population will be intermediate types between 70, 75 percent and only about five percent of the population is a true evening type,” Dr. Romo-Nava told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Romo-Nava said a master circadian clock in the brain feeds information to cells in the body triggering needs and responses, like getting tired and hungry. He said past research suggests “night owls” might be more susceptible to this behavior.

“Binge eating tends to occur in the second part of the day into the evening and night,” continued Dr. Romo-Nava.

The researchers want to know if re-adjusting the circadian rhythms of people with this disorder could be an effective part of treatment.

The University of Cincinnati researchers are leading a clinical trial of 40 people. Dr. Romo-Nava said they want to determine if the circadian clock does play a significant role in bingeing behavior, and if so, could treatment options like melatonin or light therapy readjust a patient’s body clock.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer and Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4991

BACKGROUND: Binge eating is defined as the consumption of an objectively large amount of food combined with a sense of loss of control over the eating. Binge eating disorder (BED) is determined by recurrent episodes of binge eating, in addition to distress about the eating, secrecy of eating, or eating in the absence of hunger. Binge eating disorder is commonly associated with obesity. The association between binge eating and obesity leads to direct physical health consequences, and there are also associated psychological consequences such as greater rates of depression.


DIAGNOSING: The exact cause of binge eating disorder isn’t known, but it’s likely due to a combination of things, including genetics, family eating habits, emotions, and eating behavior, like skipping meals. Some people use food as a way to soothe themselves or to cope with difficult feelings. People with binge eating disorder are more likely to have other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ADHD. Someone who’s binge eating might eat a lot of food quickly, hide food containers or wrappers in their room, have big changes in their weight (up or down), skip meals, eat at unusual times, and eat alone. People who binge might have feelings that are common in many eating disorders, such as depression, anxiety, guilt, or shame. They may avoid school, work, or socializing with friends because they’re ashamed of their binge eating problem or changes in their body shape and weight. When kids or teen binge eat, parents may first suspect a problem when large amounts of food go missing from the pantry or refrigerator.


NEW STUDY: A study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health led by Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, is looking to predict binge and purge episodes and intervene in real-time before they occur and would support the development and scalability of treatments for binge-eating disorder and bulimia nervosa. The data will be collected over 30 days from more than 1,000 individuals with binge-eating disorder or bulimia nervosa. The analysis team, led by Jonathan Butner, Ph.D., of the University of Utah, will then model the data to see if they can identify stable, low-risk, and high-risk patterns that signal impending binge or purge episodes.




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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Francisco Romo-Nava, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist

Read the entire Q&A