Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in obese and normal weight binge eaters

Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Mar;89(3):387-91.


Objectives: Disturbances in gastrointestinal function may result from disordered eating and may lead to increases in gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. We compared GI symptoms in obese and non-obese binge eaters and non-binge eaters.

Methods: One hundred nineteen obese and 77 normal-weight females completed a questionnaire on bowel symptoms and binge eating behaviors for the previous 3 months. Based on binge behaviors and body mass index (> 30 kg/m2), individuals were grouped as obese binge eaters (n = 73), obese non-binge eaters (n = 43), non-obese binge eaters (n = 14), and normal-weight controls (n = 61).

Results: Obese binge eaters reported more upper GI symptoms than normal controls or obese non-binge eaters (p < 0.001). Compared with normal controls, nausea, vomiting, and bloating was 2-4 times more prevalent in both binge eating groups. Indigestion was more prevalent in both obese groups. Obese binge eaters reported more lower GI symptoms than normal-weight controls (p < 0.05). Binge eating in both weight groups was associated with more frequent abdominal pain and dyschezia. Obesity was associated with more frequent constipation, diarrhea, straining, and flatus, whether or not subjects reported binge eating. Chi-square showed a significant association between obesity, binge eating, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, using the Manning criteria.

Conclusions: Specific GI symptoms were associated with binge eating and obesity. Overall, symptoms were more prevalent and more severe in obese binge eaters. The high prevalence of GI symptoms in obese patients who indulge in binge eating should be considered in their evaluation and treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Weight
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires