The biology of binge eating

Appetite. 2009 Jun;52(3):545-553. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Mar 20.


Objective: To examine the literature on binge eating to gain a better understanding of its biological foundations and their role in eating disorders.

Method: Literature review and synthesis.

Results: Research using animal models has revealed several factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of binge eating. These factors, including stress, food restriction, the presence of palatable foods, and environmental conditioning, parallel many of the precursory circumstances leading to binge eating in individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

Discussion: The animal literature has opened a new avenue to aid in the understanding of the neurobiological basis of binge eating. Future endeavors examining the genetic and environmental correlates of binge eating behavior will further contribute to the understanding of the biological foundations of binge eating and assist with establishing diagnostic criteria and the development of novel treatments for eating disorders marked by binge eating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive
  • Bulimia / etiology*
  • Bulimia / genetics
  • Bulimia / metabolism
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / etiology*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / genetics
  • Bulimia Nervosa / metabolism
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Environment*
  • Food Deprivation
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological* / complications
  • Taste


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Dopamine