Two forms of disordered eating in obesity: binge eating and night eating

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Jan;27(1):1-12. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802186.


Objective: Binge eating disorder (BED) and the night eating syndrome (NES) have been linked to obesity. This review summarizes their characteristics, implications of their diagnoses and treatment outcomes.

Method: Selective review of the literature on BED and NES.

Results: BED was proposed as a distinctive disorder on the basis of two large multisite studies in the early 1990s. It is associated with more severe and earlier onset of obesity, earlier onset of dieting and greater psychopathology. It shows large placebo responses and reduction of bingeing in patients on waiting-list controls. Traditional weight reduction programs reduce bingeing at least as well as psychological treatments designed for this purpose. NES is a stress-related eating, sleeping and mood disorder that is associated with disordered neuroendocrine function. It follows a characteristic circadian pattern and has responded to an agent that enhances serotonin function.

Conclusions: BED responds well to weight reduction programs. It is proposed that this diagnosis be used as a marker for psychological problems that deserve treatment in their own right. NES is an eating, sleep, and mood disorder with distinctive behavioral and neuroendocrine characteristics. Studies of treatment for NES are in their infancy but selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) show promise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bulimia / complications
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diet, Reducing / adverse effects
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Syndrome
  • Weight Loss