Binge eating

Clinical Brief – August 21st

The Brief

A randomized study found that face-to-face therapy could be significantly better at treating binge eating disorder than internet-based self-help intervention.

How did the study go?

Researchers in Germany recruited about 170 patients and split the group 50/50 to receive either face-to-face cognitive behavior therapy or internet modules of guided self-help intervention.

They then followed up on their patients to count the number of days they had binge eating episodes based on a validated assessment. They also wanted to see which treatment was better at affecting BMI and quality of life.

Turns out, both face-to-face therapy and internet-based intervention reduced the number of days patients had binge eating episodes. But face-to-face therapy was significantly more effective after 4 months:

  • 41% fewer days with binge-eating episodes (2 vs 4)
  • Over 3-times more patients who abstained from binge eating (61 vs 36%)
  • 33% fewer patients who were diagnosed with binge eating disorder (29 vs 49%)

So, this is essentially the physician’s perspective. What did the patients say?

Based on patient surveys, face-to-face therapy and internet-based intervention showed similar improvements in the quality of life. And in both treatment groups, BMI remained stable after 4 months, as well as a longer follow-up extension of 6 months.

Bottom line

For patients with binge eating disorder, face-to-face therapy is better than internet-based self-help intervention from a medical perspective, but in terms of improving the patients’ quality of life and stabilizing their BMI, either option should work.

“Face-to-face cognitive behavior therapy is likely to be a better initial treatment option compared with internet-based guided self-help… Internet-based guided self-help remains a viable, slower-acting, low-threshold treatment alternative.”

– de Zwaan M, et al.

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