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Science / Medicine : Bright Light Used to Treat Bulimia

June 10, 1991|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Canadian scientists said last week that they believe exposure to bright light can help women who suffer from the binge-eating disorder known as bulimia. The disorder affects about 2% of women, who binge on food and then vomit it up. They suffer a wide range of psychological and physical problems ranging from tooth decay to heart stoppages.

Clinical psychiatrist Raymond Lam said preliminary studies show as many as half of bulimic patients suffer the same mood swings as those afflicted with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression. "We only expect 5% of the general population to have variations that severe," he said.

"So far we have treated a small number of seasonal bulimic patients--five or six--with light therapy and they do seem to improve both in their depression and in their bulimia," he said in an interview. The patients spend two hours each winter morning in front of a light box which emits high-intensity beams.

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