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Picking and nibbling: Frequency and associated clinical features in bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder

Date Published: 12/14


Picking and nibbling (P&N) is a newly studied eating behavior characterized by eating in an unplanned and repetitious manner in between meals and snacks. This behavior seems to be related to poorer weight loss outcomes after bariatric surgery for weight loss in severely obese patients, but clarification is still required regarding its value in other clinical samples.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequency of P&N across different eating disorder samples, as well as to examine its association with psychopathological eating disorder features.

Methods: Our sample included treatment-seeking adult participants, recruited for five different clinical trials: 259 binge eating disorder (BED); 264 bulimia nervosa (BN) and 137 anorexia nervosa (AN). Participants were assessed using the Eating Disorders Examination interview before entering the clinical trials.

Results: P&N was reported by 44% of the BED; 57.6% of the BN and 34.3% of the AN participants. No association was found between P&N and BMI, the presence of compensatory behaviors, binge eating or any of the EDE subscales.

Discussion: This study suggests that P&N behavior is highly prevalent across eating disorder diagnoses. Our findings suggest that P&N is not associated with psychopathology symptoms or other eating disordered behaviors.

Authors: Eva M. Conceição, PhD1,2,*, James E. Mitchell, MD2,3, Scott G. Engel, PhD2,3, Stephen A. Wonderlich, PhD2,3, Heather K. Simonich, MA2, Caroline B. Peterson, PhD5, Scott J. Crow, MD5, and Daniel Le Grange, PhD4

1School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal
2Department of Clinical Research, Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, Fargo, ND
3Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of North Dakota, North Dakota, Fargo, ND
4Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
5Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Download Full Paper: PDF (288kb)

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