Overeating in children may be linked to smoking pot

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By Val Willingham, (CNN) — Do bad nutrition habits like overeating or binge eating lead to smoking pot? Some health experts think they might, according to a study published Monday.

Marijuana plantHabits like overeating have always been known to affect our health, nutritionists say. In some cases, people say they lose control and just can’t stop. Now scientists are finding that both habits and that feeling of lacking control may lead to other health issues.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital studied a group of 16,882 boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 15 who participated in the Growing Up Today Study, beginning in 1996. From that time to 2005, investigators sent out questionnaires every 12 to 24 months, asking if these children were overeating or binge eating. Binge eating was defined as eating an amount of food that is larger than most people would eat in the same time span under similar circumstances and feeling a lack of control over eating during that time. Overeating did not have to be connected to loss of control.

By looking at the results, clinicians examined the association between overeating (without loss of control) and binge eating (overeating with loss of control) and such health red flags as being overweight or obese, depression, binge drinking, and drug use.

They found binge eating was more common in girls than boys – 2.3% to 3.1% of females and 0.3 % to 1% of males said they were binge eaters between the ages of 16 and 24. And the habit of binge eating led to weight problems.

“In summary, we found that binge eating, but not overeating, predicted the onset of overweight/obesity and worsening depressive symptoms,” noted lead author Kendrin Sonneville, a clinical nutrition specialist with Boston Children’s Hospital. “It’s understandable about the connection with depressive states because binge eating carries a kind of stigma that could cause those children binge eat, to be depressed,” she added.

However, when it came to overeating, whether the children said they were in control or had lost control of their eating habits, doctors found a strong connection to the onset of marijuana and other drug use, while there was very little connection to either eating habit and binge drinking.

“These findings from this investigation and previous research suggest that lack of control is an important indicator of severity of overeating episodes,” Sonneville says. “Why it’s connected to possible drug use, we don’t understand yet.

“However, ” she continued, “Given that binge eating is uniquely predictive of some adverse outcomes and because previous work has found that binge eating can be treated by intervention, clinicians should be encouraged to screen adolescents for binge eating.”

The study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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