Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized primarily by episodic binge eating. Individuals, usually young women of normal body weight, consume large amounts of food in short periods of time and then frequently induce vomiting. Little is known about the eating behavior of patients with bulimia or about the nutritional composition of their binges or their normal meals. Such information is critical in evaluating hypotheses concerning the etiology of and treatment of bulimia.
The aim of the current proposal is to study the eating behavior of women with bulimia in a controlled laboratory setting which will permit characterization and quantification of both their normal and their binge eating behavior. Three related studies will be conducted. In the first study, the binge- and non-binge eating behavior of 16 patients with bulimia will be compared to that of 16 age- and sex-matched controls. In the second study, the reproducibility of eating behavior in the laboratory in this patient population will be determined by asking a separate group of 20 patients to consume two non-binge and two binge meals in the laboratory. In the third study, the clinical relevance of laboratory-monitored eating behavior will be assessed by determining if treatment of the bulimia is associated with changes in eating behavior in the laboratory. Although bulimia is, by definition, an eating disorder, it is striking that the eating behavior of patients with this syndrome has received little systematic attention. The proposed studies will provide and accurate and objective description of eating behavior in bulimia and establish a scientific foundation for future studies testing specific hypotheses concerning binge eating.
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