Skip to Content

When Medically Supervised, Extreme Diets May Not Trigger Binge Eating


For people struggling with obesity or weight problems, dieting so often fails because of its restrictive nature.

Periods of cutting calories or eliminating food groups are often followed by periods of binge eating, setting individuals up for a cycle of failure - and never enabling them to lose the weight for good.

Yet new research from the University of Sydney suggests "extreme diets," when medically supervised, won't necessarily exacerbate binge eating behavior and may be an option for people whose weight is causing dangerous health issues.

"When clinically supervised, low or very low energy diets are an important treatment option for obesity," said Professor Amanda Salis, lead author of the study. "The results from this study show that these diets are not necessarily a trigger for binge eating, although eating behavior should be monitored during their use."

Not a 'DIY' approach

The diets reviewed in the study were those that generally substituted meals and snacks with nutritional shakes. A typical medically supervised diet might include anywhere from 900 to 1200 calories per day, depending on the age, weight and health of the individual.

Salis is careful to mention that extreme diets are not for everyone, especially for people attempting a DIY approach. She also emphasized these types of diets are only recommended for people with a body mass index over 30, or for those who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

While the long-term effects of extreme diets on binge eating behavior is unknown, Salis said, participants in the research were able to avoid binge eating behaviors while on medically supervised diets for up to 18 months.

In many settings, clinical weight loss programs not only address caloric restriction and weight management, but also the underlying emotional and behavioral patterns that lead to overeating and an unhealthy relationship with food.

"All of the extreme diets under investigation were done within the context of carefully controlled clinical trials," Salis said, "which is completely different from 'do it yourself' starvation diets without clinical supervision, which have been linked to binge eating."

Source: Medical Xpress
Image courtesy of BrianHolm/