B.E.D. is the most common eating disorder among United States adults,*1 more prevalent than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa combined.*1,2 The exact cause of B.E.D. is unknown, but several theories suggest a neurobiological basis, with genetic and environmental influencers. Learn more about the possible causes of B.E.D. in this educational video.
*Estimated 12-month and lifetime prevalence among an eating disorder-assessed subsample (n=2,980) of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative face-to-face household survey of English-speaking adults aged ≥18 years.
While the exact cause of binge eating disorder (B.E.D.) is unknown,
Research suggests B.E.D. may have a neurobiological basis
with genetic and environmental risk factors
Prevailing theories that may support a neurobiological basis for B.E.D.:
Reward center and impulsivity
Adults with B.E.D. have shown reduced activity in impulse
control–related regions of the brain3
Neurotransmitter dysregulation theory7-10
Dopamine signaling converts sensory stimuli into processes that may generate or enhance “wanting” of a particular food8,11,12
Endogenous µ-opioid signaling
μ-Opioid receptor polymorphisms are more often found
in adults with B.E.D.8
Opioid receptor involvement in reward processing has been
demonstrated primarily from animal studies13,14
Research suggests risk factors for B.E.D. may include:
B.E.D. appears to run in families, which may reflect additive
Genetic differences in neurobiological components of the
brain's reward center have been observed8,16
Environmental and social influences17,18
- In a case-controlled retrospective assessment of 162 women with B.E.D., stressful life events were reported more frequently in the year preceding B.E.D. onset than in non-B.E.D. controls17
- In a nationally representative survey of 5,702 adults, of the men (n=30) and women (n=75) who reported having B.E.D., 98% and 90%, respectively, reported experiencing some form of trauma*18
*Exposure to events such as combat, life-threatening
accidents, a major disaster, or physical or sexual assault.18
- Hudson JI, Hiripi E, Pope HG, and Kessler RC. The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biol Psychiatry. 2007;61(3):348-358.
- Kessler RD, Berglund PA, Chiu WT, et al. The prevalence and correlates of binge eating disorder in the world health organization world mental health surveys. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;73(9):904-914.
- Balodis IM, Molina ND, Kober H, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(2):367-377.
- Schäfer A, Vaitl D, Schienle A. Neuroimage. 2010;50(2):639-643.
- Woolley JD, Gorno-Tempini ML, Seeley WW, et al. Neurology. 2007;69(14):1424-1433.
- Schienle A, Schäfer A, Hermann A, Vaitl D. Biol Psychiatry. 2009;65(8):654-661.
- Kessler RC, Berglund PA, Chiu WT, et al. The prevalence and correlates of binge eating disorder in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;73(9):904-914.
- Davis CA, Levitan RD, Reid C, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009;17(6):1220-1225.
- Wang GJ, Geliebter A, Volkow ND, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011;19(8):1601-1608.
- Levitan RD, Masellis M, Basile VS, et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2004;56(9):665-669.
- Berridge KC, Kringelback ML. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2013;23(3):294-303.
- Wyvell CL, Berridge KC. J Neurosci. 2000;20(21):8122-8130.
- Naleid AM, Grace MK, Chimukangara M, Billington CJ, Levine AS. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007;293(1):R99-R105.
- Boggiano MM, Chandler PC, Viana JB, Oswald KD, Maldonado CR, Wauford PK. Behav Neurosci. 2005;119(5):1207-1214.
- American Psychiatric Association. Binge-eating disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013:350-353.
- Davis C, Levitan RD, Yilmaz Z, Kaplan AS, Carter JC, Kennedy JL. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2012;38(2):328-335.
- Pike KM, Wilfley D, Hilbert A, Fairburn CG, Dohm FA, Striegel-Moore RH. Psychiatry Res. 2006;142(1):19-29.
- Mitchell KS, Mazzeo SE, Schlesinger MR, Brewerton TD, Smith BN. Int J Eat Disord. 2012;45(3):307-315.