The authors found that binge eating was more common among girls, reaching just over 3 percent among girls and 1 percent among boys. In turn, binge eating was linked to a higher risk for becoming overweight or obese, as well as for developing depressive symptoms. However, simply overeating -- with self-control -- was not linked to either.
Both overeating and binge-eating behaviors were associated with a greater risk for drug-use initiation, but not binge-drinking behavior.
"Based on the findings of this study alone, we can't explain why adolescents who overeat or binge aren't at higher risk for binge drinking," Sonneville said. "It is important to note that frequent binge drinking was common in our study, [as] 60 percent of the teens started binge drinking during the course of the study."
"The fact that we didn't see an association between binge eating and the onset of frequent binge drinking may have something to do with the fact that this behavior is so normative among teens," she added.
Registered dietician Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said the findings are in line with what she would expect.
"Most people might not make that connection between binge eating and drug use, but people often use food to address emotional states the same way they might use drugs," she said. "They may be engaging in binge eating for a way to somehow improve their mood or ... cover up negative emotions. That may be the same reason they also then turn to marijuana or some other drug."
"We see this in cases when patients come in for bariatric surgery," Sandon added. "In many of those cases the drug of choice, so to speak, was food. If you don't change their mindset regarding food
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