A new study has said that a self-guided, 12-week program could make binge eaters eat less for up to a year and even save money for those who participate.
Conducted by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Wesleyan University and Rutgers University, the first-of-a-kind study found that more than 63 percent of participants had stopped binging at the end of the program - compared to just over 28 percent of those who did not participate.
The program lasted only 12 weeks, but most of the participants were still binge free a year later.
Another study found that program participants saved money because they spent less on things like dietary supplements and weight loss programs.
"It is unusual to find a program like this that works well, and also saves the patient money. It's a win-win for everyone. This type of program is something that all health care systems should consider implementing," said study author Dr. Frances Lynch.
"People who binge eat more than other people do during a short period of time and they lose control of their eating during these episodes. Binge eating is often accompanied by depression, shame, weight gain, loss of self-esteem and it costs the healthcare system millions of extra dollars. Our studies show that recurrent binge eating can be successfully treated with a brief, easily administered program, and that's great news for patients and their providers," said the study's principal investigator Dr. Ruth H. Striegel-Moore.
The new diagnosis could focus more attention on binge eating and how best to treat it, according to the researchers.
It also could influence the number of people diagnosed and how insurers will cover treatment.
This randomized controlled trial, conducted in 2004-2005, involved 123 members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan in Oregon and southwest Washington.
By the end of the 12-week program 63.5 percent of participants had stopped binging, compared to 28.3 percent of those who did not participate.
Six months later, 74.5 percent of program participants abstained from binging, compared to 44.1 percent in usual care.
At one year, 64.2 percent of participants were binge free, compared to 44.6 percent of those in usual care.
They also found that participants in the intervention group spent less on weight loss programs and over-the-counter medications and supplements.
The study has been published in the April issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.