EUR associate professor does rare research on binge eating disorder

Binge Eating

Unlike eating disorders bulimia or anorexia, not much research has been done on binge eating disorder. That’s why EUR associate professor Pauline Jansen has dedicated herself to the subject.

Recently Jansen was interviewed by Radio Rijnmond about her research on binge eating disorder in children and young people. When asked how many actually suffer from this eating disorder, she said: ‘We still have to find out, but based on studies from abroad we expect to find about 5% of young people who’ve given in to binge eating at some point. That does not mean they suffer from binge eating disorder, but it does mean that they have binged on food.’

A brain that likes fat and sugar
Binge eating means that you eat an enormous amount of food in a very short time. You start with a bag of crisps, and then go on uncontrollably eating anything you can lay your hands on; emptying the fridge in a very short time span. Unlike people suffering from bulimia, people with binge eating disorder do not dispose of the food after consuming it.
Asked if binge eating disorder is a psychological problem, Jansen answers: ‘It could certainly be. We also think it has to do with a rewarding system in the brain. Some people are more sensitive to foods that are high in fat and sugar and the rewards those give. They might be prone to binge eating. That is something we will look at in our research.’

Valuable data
The research she talks about is Generation R. This is an extensive project in which Erasmus MC follows the nearly 10,000 women who were pregnant during 2002-2004 and the 6,000 children who were then born. Now 13 and 14 years old, they are monitored through questionnaires on health, behaviour, food and lifestyle. In order to collect data on their mood and eating behaviour during the day, Jansen and her colleagues are developing an app. Jansen: ‘This is an interesting period as their behaviour and body’s change rapidly during puberty. Women with binge eating disorder often state it started around that time. With our research we hope to find more information on the onset of binge eating disorder.’

About Pauline Jansen
Pauline Jansen is an associate professor holding a combined position at the Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies and the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology of Erasmus University Medical Centre. In this role, she is involved in teaching activities, and also coordinates and supervises research on eating behaviour and eating disorders within Generation R. Her background is in psychology and epidemiology.

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