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Out of control

MEDICINE / THE M.D.

Binge eaters' inability to stop themselves, often unrecognized as an eating disorder, must be treated differently than anorexia and bulimia.

January 21, 2008|Valerie Ulene | Special to The Times

There are no FDA-approved treatments for binge eating disorder, but several drugs show some promise. The anti-seizure medication Topamax, which acts as an appetite suppressant in epilepsy patients, has proved somewhat successful in reducing the frequency and severity of bingeing. In a study published last month in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the weight loss drug Meridia was shown to significantly reduce bingeing; binge eaters treated with the drug also lost more weight during a 24-week period than those receiving only a placebo.

Unfortunately, therapies that help prevent bingeing don't necessarily translate into successful weight loss. Although some doctors view that as a treatment failure, others offer a different perspective. "Weight loss should be viewed as a positive side effect of treatment, not its primary goal," Boutelle says. "The goal of treatment is to make people feel better, and sometimes simply stopping the bingeing can do that."

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Dr. Valerie Ulene is a board-certified specialist in preventive medicine practicing in L.A. Reach her at themd@ att.net. The M.D. appears monthly.

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