Women with apple-shaped bodies more likely to binge eat

By Rebecca Burton • Published: February 2nd, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Much like people, eating disorders come in many shapes and sizes. To better understand who is most at risk for these conditions and why, Drexel University researchers conducted one of the first studies to look at how fat distribution in the body might affect eating disorder risk.

People with apple-shaped bodies typically store more fat cells in their abdominal regions. The researchers found that people with this body type may also be more at risk for binge-eating behavior. Binge eating refers to eating episodes in which the person feels out of control and eats much more than they normally would. The authors also found that women with this particular body shape reported being more self-conscious about their body image than woman with other body shapes.

To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed data from surveys completed by 300 young adult women. None of these women displayed disordered eating behaviors at the start of the study. Further clinical interviews were conducted to reveal whether the women had experienced eating episodes in which they felt a loss of control.

The findings showed that women with more fat stored in their lower abdominal regions were 53 percent more likely to experience binge eating over two years than women with fat stored elsewhere in the body. Total body fat percentage did not predict this behavior. This means that where the fat is stored seems to have a big effect on a woman’s risk.

More research is needed to explain the mechanisms behind this relationship, but the researchers have a few hunches. The stigma of having an apple-shaped body might be stressful and it could also play a biological role in disordered eating behaviors. The researchers suggest that the way fat is stored can have an effect on hunger and the feeling of fullness, which could exacerbate the out-of-control feeling.