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Physiol Behav. 2004 Jul;81(5):735-40.

Gastric capacity, test meal intake, and appetitive hormones in binge eating disorder.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, New York Obesity Research Center, Babcock 10-A, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, 1111 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10025, USA.


Binge eating disorder (BED), characterized by ingestion of very large meals without purging afterwards, is found in a subset of obese individuals. We showed previously that stomach capacity is greater in obese than in lean subjects, and in this study, we investigated capacity in obese individuals with BED. We also determined ad-libitum intake of a test meal until extremely full. Furthermore, we measured various appetitive hormones (insulin, leptin, glucagon, CCK, ghrelin) and glucose before a fixed meal and for 120 min afterwards. An acetaminophen tracer was used to assess gastric emptying rate. We compared three groups of overweight women: 11 BED, 13 BE (subthreshold BED), and 13 non-binge-eating normals. The BED individuals had the largest stomach capacity as assessed by either maximum volume tolerated (P=.05) or by gastric compliance to pressure (P=.02) using an intragastric balloon. Although test meal intake did not differ between groups, it correlated (P=.03) with gastric capacity. The BED group showed a tendency (P=.06) to have greater area under the curve (AUC) and had higher values at 5 and 60 min (P<.05) for insulin compared to normals. Moreover, the BED subjects had lower ghrelin baselines premeal, and lower AUC for ghrelin, which then declined less postmeal than for the normals (P<.05). None of the other blood values differed, including glucose, leptin glucagon, and CCK, as well as acetaminophen, reflecting gastric emptying. The lower ghrelin in BED, although contrary to what was expected, is consistent with lower ghrelin in obesity, and suggests down-regulation of ghrelin by overeating. The lack of differences in CCK is consistent with the lack of differences in gastric emptying rate, given that CCK is released when nutrients reach the intestine. The results show that BED subjects have a large gastric capacity as well as abnormalities in meal-related ghrelin and insulin patterns that may be factors in binge eating.

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