Binge Eating and Biology: New Research Focuses on Teens

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Research finds that eating disorders can stem from biology, as well as, environmental factors. Many feel that our society creates a culture of body image issues that may lead to disordered eating. Yet, the findings show this may not be the sole explanation.

Teens are vulnerable to social pressure over body image and adolescents often suffer from issues such as low self-esteem and self doubts.  As they learn about themselves and their own strengths and weaknesses, these insecurities fester and sometimes manifest into severe health issues such as eating disorders. Many teens are seeking acceptance during this stage of their life and if they feel a body type is necessary to fit in, they may struggle to fit it, thus developing an eating disorder.

Teenage binge eating disorders can develop overtime. Take note of the studies below that explain why such a huge chunk of these eating disorders is due to the environmental factors present as well as the biological makeup of the teen.

Binge Eating: Teen Rats Favored High Fat Foods Rather Than Healthy Options

Although this seems like a plausible explanation and may be a part of the issue, research on pubescent rats show that biology also plays a role. The MSU research team analyzed the eating habits of 66 female rats from before puberty through adulthood. The rats ate cake frosting as well as their typical food. The scientists did not observe any difference before puberty, but binge-eating emerged in adolescence. These findings support biological factors as a cause for eating disorders during the teen years.

Even those who did not binge still preferred the high-fat food options. Binge eating rates during and after puberty are much higher in rats than humans. The MSU research team found that 30 percent of rats engaged in binge eating, while at most, 19 percent of humans struggle with this issue. The researchers believe that this is because humans have social scrutiny to regulate their behavior.

Puberty In Girls Opens The Door To Eating Disorders

In the study, the researchers discovered that the onset of puberty opens the door to eating disorders in young girls. They discuss in detail the following theory:

“Puberty is one of the most frequently discussed risk periods for the development of eating disorders. Prevailing theories propose environmentally mediated sources of risk arising from the psychosocial effects (e.g., increased body dissatisfaction, decreased self-esteem) of pubertal development in girls. However, recent research highlights the potential role of ovarian hormones in phenotypic and genetic risk for eating disorders during puberty.”

The goal of the researchers is to review data from human and animal studies to support their theory. The research confirms that puberty is a critical risk period for eating disorders, particularly given the hormonal state of young girls during this stage of development. The findings of the study show that both pubertal status and pubertal timing significantly impact risk for most eating disorders in girls. As a result, such risks should be mitigated through educational efforts that focus on raising awareness and preventing risk factors.

Eating Disorders and Drug Dependence in Teens

Is your teen struggling with an eating disorder and using illicit substances like crystal meth to reach an unhealthy weight goal? Or is your teen overindulging in alcohol as well as food to make up for feelings of loss or pain? Contact us at Newport Academy today to discuss our programs.

Image courtesy of Greg Raines for Unsplash.