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Int J Eat Disord. 2018 Jul;51(7):608-616. doi: 10.1002/eat.22900. Epub 2018 Aug 21.

Rigor and reproducibility via laboratory studies of eating behavior: A focused update and conceptual review.

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Eating and Weight Disorders Program, Department of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York.
Columbia Center for Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York.
Eating Disorders Research Unit, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York.



The eating behavior of individuals with eating disorders has been examined in laboratory settings over the last 30 years. In this focused review, we build on prior research and highlight several feeding laboratory paradigms that have successfully demonstrated quantifiable and observable behavioral disturbances, and thereby add rigor and reproducibility to the examination of disturbances of eating behavior. This review describes the measures commonly obtained via these laboratory techniques. Supporting Information Appendices with detailed information about implementation are provided to allow for the reproducible execution of these techniques across labs.


Literature documenting the existence of objective abnormalities in eating behavior among individuals with eating disorders or in comparison to healthy controls (n > 40) is briefly summarized. These protocols, conducted across at least 17 independent labs, are sensitive and reproducible, can be used to assess subjective and physiological parameters associated with eating, and elucidate the impact of treatment. Laboratory studies from patients with eating disorders compared with healthy controls reproducibly demonstrate both that patients with Anorexia Nervosa ingest fewer calories and that individuals with Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating Disorder ingest more calories when asked to binge-eat.


Feeding laboratory studies have the potential for quantifying the characteristic behavioral psychopathology of patients with eating disorders, and may provide a useful tool to explore the potential utility of new treatments for individuals with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge-Eating Disorder.


eating behavior; laboratory studies; objective assessment; reproducibility; rigor

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