A Mechanistic Examination of Continuous-Cycle Oral Contraceptive Administration in Bulimia Nervosa

2019 Award: $46,942

Binge eating fluctuates in a predictable pattern over the course of the menstrual cycle, but how reproductive hormones influence these changes remains unknown. Reproductive hormones could influence binge eating through their impact on response to reward. In this project, we will stabilize reproductive hormone fluctuation in women with binge eating using oral contraceptives in order to address how this stabilization influences binge eating and reward responsivity. Understanding how reproductive hormones act on binge eating could lead to new and more effective treatments.

Need/Problem: There is a major disconnect between the negative consequences of eating disorders associated with binge eating and the availability of effective treatments. Female reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may play a role in the risk for binge eating, but it is unclear how these hormones influence risk.

Grant Summary: We will study the impact of birth control on eating behaviors and brain activation in response to reward in women with an eating disorder characterized by binge eating.

Goals and Projected Outcomes:Further understanding what causes binge eating in women could lead to more effective treatments, ultimately reducing the burden associated with this life-impairing behavior.

Jessica Baker, PhD

Grant Details: One strategy to address the impact of reproductive hormones on binge eating is through the use of oral contraceptives (i.e., birth control). Oral contraceptives stop ovulation thereby stopping the changes in reproductive hormones that occur from pre- to post- ovulation. In this proposal, we will compare eating behaviors and brain activation in response to reward in women with binge eating before and after 3-months of continuous oral contraceptive use. We hypothesize that reproductive hormones impact binge eating via changes in reward responsivity. Unraveling the mechanism underlying how reproductive hormones act will allow for novel treatments targeting this mechanism to be developed.