Blocking the binge: UF researchers explore for uncontrolled eating

GAINESVILLE---A medication for epilepsy holds promise of also helping people who suffer from binge eating, according to a University of Florida psychiatrist.

In a small pilot study, nine of 13 patients who used the anticonvulsant medication topiramate reported long-term decreased incidence of binge eating episodes, with four patients ending uncontrolled consumption completely, said Dr. Nathan Shapira, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UF's College of Medicine.

Shapira, who led the research effort while on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati, presented the findings today in a poster session at the World Psychiatric Association conference in Hamburg, Germany.

"What we really found intriguing here is that, for many of these patients, nothing else had worked previously, not only for their binge eating but also for any other psychiatric problems they may have had," Shapira said.

While the results are promising, he cautioned that the drug's effectiveness remains to be verified in larger, placebo-controlled trials. Such trials also would help determine the most effective dosages.

Topiramate was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996 for epilepsy. Clinical trials for that use had demonstrated an appetite-suppressant effect, which led researchers to begin preliminary tests of it for binge eating. Some practitioners also are using it as a mood stabilizer to treat such disorders as depression and manic depression-illnesses sometimes accompanied by binge eating.

People with binge eating disorder have episodes in which they consume large amounts of food in a short period of time and feel out of control with their eating. It is considered a distinct diagnosis from bulimia, a binge disorder characterized by the additional feature of purging. Those with binge eating disorder are often clinically obese and turn to food in response to what is occurring in their environment rather than physical hunger cues.

An estimate

Contact: Eric Lowe
University of Florida

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