For the first time, the Department of Defense will fund researchers to study binge eating in veterans.
UC San Diego was given $3 million by the DOD to study the disorder. It was one of three institutions awarded.
The purpose of the grant is to research binge eating disorder (BED) and test treatments in veterans and active duty military.
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“Binge eating and obesity cost the DOD a significant amount of money in health care costs and absenteeism,” said Kerri Boutelle, principal investigator of the study and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
Absenteeism is the habit of regularly staying away from work, according to the study.
“It costs the DOD over a million dollars in absenteeism and over a million dollars in medical costs per year,” Boutelle said.
BED is characterized when someone experiences a pattern of eating large amounts of food, often to the point of discomfort, according to the study. It is a complex condition that affects the brain and the body.
The rates of BED in the military are high; approximately 19 percent of women and 14 percent of active duty military suffer from the disorder, according to UC San Diego.
“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 Boutelle.
One of the most common treatments for BED is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) that helps change or manage thoughts about harmful acts, according to the study.
While this therapy can have up to 60 percent of participants enter remission, it “fails to produce significant weight loss,” which may play a part in participants relapsing.
Boutelle and her team will study regulation of cues (ROC), in addition to CBT. This treatment targets cravings and trains participants to stop when they’re full, according to the study.
“We believe ROC can potentially provide a more effective and durable treatment for both BED and obesity for veterans,” Boutelle said.
UC San Diego’s trial will be made up of roughly 120 veterans diagnosed with BED.
The nearly year-long experiment, funded by the DOD grant, “has the potential to substantially change the treatment model for BED,” said Boutelle.