Are YOU an apple shape? Carrying fat around your middle ‘means you’re more likely to suffer loss-of-control eating disorder’
- Link found between apple shape and loss-of-control eating episodes
- Women with more fat around middle, less likely to have body satisfaction
- Loss-of-control eating is a compulsion to keep eating or that stopping once one has started is difficult
- 1 unit increase in percentage of body fat stored in stomach linked to a 53% increase in the risk of developing loss-of-control eating within 2 years
Women who are apple shaped – those who store their weight around their middle – are at greater risk of eating disorders, experts have warned.
The revelation comes after a study earlier this week found have a ‘spare tyre’ of fat around the waist is more deadly than being obese, doubling the risk of early death.
Now, in what researchers believe is the first study of its kind, a link has been found between body shape and loss-of-control eating episodes.
The findings reveal women with greater fat stored in their midsection, were less likely to be satisfied with their bodies.
That, researchers said, could play a role in contributing to loss-of-control binge eating.
Dr Laura Berner, lead author from Drexel University, said: ‘Eating disorders that are detected early are much more likely to be successfully treated.
‘Although existing eating disorder risk models comprehensively address psychological factors, we know of very few biologically-based factors that help us predict who may be more likely to develop eating disorder behaviours.
‘Our preliminary findings reveal that centralised fat distribution may be an important risk factor for the development of eating disturbance, specifically for loss-of-control eating.’
She said this suggests that targeting individuals who store more fat in their midsection and adapting psychological interventions to focus specifically on body fat distribution could be beneficial for preventing eating disorders.
Mounting evidence suggests that experiencing a sense of loss-of-control during eating – feeling driven or compelled to keep eating or that stopping once one has started is difficult – is the most significant element of binge-eating episodes regardless of how much food is consumed, according to the researchers.
‘This sense of loss of control is experienced across a range of eating disorder diagnoses: bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and the binge-eating/purging sub-type of anorexia nervosa,’ said Dr Berner.
‘We wanted to see if a measurable biological characteristic could help predict who goes on to develop this feeling, as research shows that individuals who feel this sense of loss of control over eating but don’t yet have an eating disorder are more likely to develop one.’
Researchers followed a group of around 300 female students for two years.
They investigated whether body fat distribution is linked to body dissatisfaction over time, and whether it increases the risk of developing or aggravating loss-of-control eating.
The participants completed assessments at the start of the trial, at six months, and 24 months – measuring height, weight and total body fat percentage and where it is distributed.
The women, none of whom were diagnosed with an eating disorder at the start of the study, were assessed for disorders.
Researchers interviewed them, asking specifically about a sense of loss of control when eating.
Their findings revealed, the women with greater fat stores around their middle, independent of total body mass and depression levels, were more likely to develop loss-of-control eating.
And, they demonstrated steady increases in loss-of-control eating episodes over time.
The researchers also found women with a larger percentage of their body fat stored in the trunk region were less satisfied with their bodies, regardless of their total weight or depression levels.
Dr Berner said: ‘Our results suggest that centralised fat deposition increased disordered eating risk above and beyond other known risk factors.
‘The specificity of our findings to centralised fat deposition was also surprising.’
She said a one-unit increase in the percentage of body fat stored in the abdominal region was associated with a 53 per cent increase in the risk of developing loss-of-control eating over the next two years.
Meanwhile, the total percentage body fat did not predict loss-of-control eating development.
Dr Berner said more research is needed to explain the reason for her team’s findings, though she speculates there are a number of factors that could be influential.
She said: ‘It’s possible that this kind of fat distribution is not only psychologically distressing, but biologically influential through, for example, alterations in hunger and satiety signalling.
‘Fat cells release signals to the brain that influence how hungry or satiated we feel.
‘Our study didn’t include hormone assays, so we can’t know for sure, but in theory it’s possible that if a centralised distribution of fat alters the hunger and satiety messages it sends, it could make a person feel out of control while eating.’
Dr Berner said it is possible that the findings may apply to other eating disorders, including bulimia and binge eating disorder, but added that further studies are needed.
The study, titled ‘Examination of Central Body Fat Deposition as a Risk Factor for Loss-of-Control Eating,’ was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.