professor and chair of psychology, is leading a binge-eating study.
Groundbreaking Binge-Eating Study Undertaken by Psychology Professor
The largest, most comprehensive binge-eating
study ever undertaken has been initiated in Portland, Oregon, and the
primary investigator is Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of
Striegel-Moore, an internationally-recognized expert on eating disorders,
says the study will last four years and include male and female subjects
between 18 and 50 years of age. People participating in the study who
present with eating disorders will be offered treatment options. The study
is being funded by National Institute of Mental Health, the National
Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease, and Kaiser Permanente
Center for Health Research of Portland, Oregon.
“Kaiser-Permanente’s involvement is the reason that the study will be
conducted in Portland,” Striegel-Moore says. “That’s where they are
headquartered and they will provide access to the study population and offer
the clinical sites.”
Kaiser-Permanente’s inclusion is also part of the reason that this study
will offer opportunities for ground-breaking inquiry. The HMO maintains an
extensive database of all its members’ health care visits, conditions and
treatments, as well as significant demographic information on each patient.
It has extensive procedures in place that ensure patients’ information is
protected and that individuals’ participation in the study is completely
voluntarily. As a result, Striegel-Moore and her co-investigators will be
able to look beyond the immediate data generally associated the eating
“For example, in these studies we usually know the subject’s age, sex and
maybe a little bit more,” she says. “But this database will allow us to look
at such things as health history, income level, education, past treatments
sought and a wealth of other information that will allow us to get much more
specific in our analysis. It’s a treasure trove of comprehensive data that
is, quite frankly, a researcher’s dream.”
The study’s initial phase, a screening of nearly 7,000 men and women, is
just finishing up. The screening phase targeted respondents randomly, rather
than inviting participation only of individuals who self-identified as
having a problem with their eating behavior. This component is unique and
permits a more accurate estimate of the extent of binge eating in the
community than when research relies on individuals to judge whether they
have an eating problem. However, not everyone suffering from binge-eating is
aware of the problem.
"Not seeking help can lead to needless suffering and create additional
health problems that include obesity, heart conditions, infertility and
hypertension," Striegel-Moore says.
"However, effective treatments are available for binge-eating."
She adds that, when studies selectively recruit individuals with eating
problems and fail to actively recruit individuals who do not experience
eating problems, the number of individuals who suffer from an eating
disorder that are identified will be inflated.
Striegel-Moore says that this is the first major study to include male
subjects and such a broad age range. As a result, the study will provide new
data on how common binge- eating is in men and individuals who are beyond
“We know that men and people who are not in their teens and twenties suffer
from binge eating too,” she says. “But for some reason they’ve been excluded
from major studies.”
From the initial pool of respondents, 250 people will be identified for the
second stage of the study and invited to participate in treatment. Each
participant’s progress will be followed for a year. Researchers will analyze
the effectiveness of the treatment options on several levels.
"One of the innovative components of this study is that we will examine in
detail what treatments people receive as part of usual clinical care,”
Striegel-Moore says. "Prior studies have investigated how successful an
experimental treatment was. What is unknown is how eating disorders are
being treated in clinical practices outside of clinical research studies.
Our study will also examine the cost of our treatment compared to the cost
of the typical treatment patients receive in the context of usual clinical
care. This will help inform decisions about optimal use of scarce health
|By David Pesci, director
of Media Relations