Grant to aid in research of binge eating among veterans

In Connecticut, a $1.1 million grant will fund the continued research of binge eating among veterans, an issue that is highly prevalent among this population but remains understudied.

The grant, awarded through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Health Services Research & Development Service, will enable Veterans Initiative for Eating and Weight, or VIEW, a program based at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, to continue its research into the causes and treatment of binge eating in veterans.

The study will target veterans in Connecticut who are involved in the VA's national weight-loss management program MOVE! In addition to their involvement in the program, the veterans will go through a 12-week self-help intervention that will help them keep a regular schedule of eating and reduce triggers that lead to binge eating, among other measures.

This type of intervention has proved effective in curbing or eliminating binge eating, according to Robin Masheb, the lead for the study and founder of the VIEW program. The goal is to reduce binge eating, improve mental health and enhance weight-loss response, said Masheb, who is also a senior research scientist in psychiatry at Yale University.

Researchers are looking for 108 participants and are "oversampling" for female veterans, Masheb said, because they want to do a secondary analysis looking at differences between genders. Male veterans are more likely to binge eat than females, despite the reverse being true in civilian populations. The reasons for that are unclear.

According to a 2014 analysis by the VA, 78 percent of vets are overweight or obese. Caring for these veterans can be costly. That same analysis found that excess weight is estimated to cost at least $370 per patient per year in additional medical and nonmedical costs.

Binge eating, which is strongly associated with psychiatric issues and mental illness, is also highly prevalent among veterans. A 2013 study of more than 45,000 overweight or obese veterans receiving care through the VA found that 78 percent of them reported binge eating.

When looking at studies comparing people who are overweight and who binge eat and people who are overweight but who don't binge eat, the people who binge eat have higher levels of depression and are more likely to have other psychiatric diagnoses, Masheb said.

Being overweight significantly increases a person's risk for other health problems, such as heart disease. Binge eating disorder, which officially became a recognized psychiatric diagnosis in 2013, also can result in increased health risks.

j.bergman@theday.com

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