Washington: Women with apple-shaped bodies – those who store more of their fat in their trunk and abdominal regions – may be less satisfied with their bodies which can contribute to binge eating, according to a new study.
The study marks the first investigation of the connections between fat distribution, body image disturbance and the development of disordered eating.
“Eating disorders that are detected early are much more likely to be successfully treated,” said lead author Laura Berner, who completed the research while pursuing a doctoral degree at Drexel University in US.
“Our preliminary findings reveal that centralised fat distribution may be an important risk factor for the development of eating disturbance, specifically for loss-of-control eating,” said Berner.
“This suggests that targeting individuals who store more of their fat in the midsection and adapting psychological interventions to focus specifically on body fat distribution could be beneficial for preventing eating disorders,” she said.
Mounting evidence suggests that experiencing a sense of loss-of-control during eating – feeling driven or compelled to keep eating or that stopping once one has started is difficult – is the most significant element of binge-eating episodes regardless of how much food is consumed, researchers said.
“This sense of loss of control is experienced across a range of eating disorder diagnoses: bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and the binge-eating/purging subtype of anorexia nervosa,” said Berner.
Using a large dataset that followed female college freshman for two years, the researchers preliminarily investigated whether body fat distribution is linked to body dissatisfaction over time and increases risk for the development or worsening of loss-of-control eating.
The nearly 300 young adult women completed assessments at baseline, six months and 24 months, that looked at height, weight and total body fat percentage and where it’s distributed.
The researchers found that women with greater central fat stores, independent of total body mass and depression levels, were more likely to develop loss-of-control eating and demonstrated steadier increases in loss-of-control eating episode frequency over time.
Women with a larger percentage of their body fat stored in the trunk region were also less satisfied with their bodies, regardless of their total weight or depression level.
The findings indicate that storage of body fat in trunk and abdominal regions, rather than elsewhere in the body, is more strongly predictive of loss-of-control eating development and worsening over time.
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.