Management and Outcomes of Binge-Eating Disorder

Berkman ND, Brownley KA, Peat CM, Lohr KN, Cullen KE, Morgan LC, Bann CM, Wallace IF, Bulik CM. Management and Outcomes of Binge-Eating Disorder. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 160. (Prepared by the RTI International–University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2012-00008-I.) AHRQ Publication No. 15(16)-EHC030-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; December 2015



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To evaluate the effectiveness and comparative effectiveness of treatments for patients with binge-eating disorder (BED) and bariatric surgery patients and children with loss-of-control (LOC) eating. Studies of BED therapies include pharmacological interventions, psychological and behavioral interventions, or combinations of approaches. We examined whether treatment effectiveness differed in patient subgroups and described course of illness for BED and LOC eating.

Data Sources

We searched MEDLINE®, EMBASE®, the Cochrane Library, Academic OneFile, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) through January 19, 2015. Eligible studies included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), nonrandomized trials, meta-analyses, and, for course of illness, cohort and case-control studies.

Review Methods

Pairs of reviewers independently selected, extracted data from, and rated the risk of bias of relevant studies; they graded the strength of evidence using established criteria. We conducted meta-analysis for some treatment outcomes.


Of 52 included RCTs of treatment; 48 concerned BED therapy. Course-of-illness evidence came from 15 observational studies. We examined four major outcomes: binge eating and abstinence, eating-related psychopathology, weight, and general psychological and other outcomes. Second-generation antidepressants (as a class), topiramate (an anticonvulsant), and lisdexamfetamine (a stimulant) were superior to placebo in achieving abstinence and reducing binge episodes and/or binge days and eating-related obsessions and compulsions. Second-generation antidepressants decreased depression. Topiramate and lisdexamfetamine produced weight reduction in study populations whose members were virtually all overweight or obese. A few formats of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—therapist led, partially therapist led, and guided self-help—were superior to placebo in achieving abstinence and reducing binge frequency. CBT for BED was generally ineffective for reducing weight or depression in this population. Therapist-led CBT was not superior to either partially therapist-led CBT or structured self-help CBT for binge-eating and weight outcomes. Behavioral weight loss treatment produced greater weight loss than CBT at the end of treatment but not over the longer run. Topiramate, fluvoxamine, and lisdexamfetamine were associated with sleep disturbance, including insomnia; topiramate and lisdexamfetamine were associated with sympathetic nervous system arousal and headache. We found no evidence on bariatric surgery patients. Treatments for LOC eating in children did not achieve superior weight reduction outcomes. Evidence on the course of either illness was limited. Early adolescent BED and LOC eating predicts such behaviors in the future.


BED patients may benefit from treatment with second-generation antidepressants, lisdexamfetamine, topiramate, and CBT. Additional studies should address other treatments, combinations of treatment, and comparisons between treatments; treatment for postbariatric surgery patients and children; and the course of these illnesses.