A new experimental surgery showed some promising results for the treatment of this severe eating disorder.
Researchers appear to have found a new way to treat binge eating disorder: brain surgery. According to two patients that underwent the procedure, the experiment yielded positive results. They claim to be experiencing fewer food cravings one year later and having more control over their brains.
The pilot study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, only included six participants. Researchers used deep brain stimulation on their brains, a first in the case of binge eating disorders. Surgeons planted a device in the patients’ brains, right under the scalp, which was programmed to detect a craving to binge eat and to zap the brain to manage the impulse.
While researchers explain that there’s no physical sensation for patients as the device releases its zap, it could affect their moods.
Experts explain that binge eating disorder is a result of a brain mix-up. People aren’t binge eating because they simply can’t control themselves; their brains are sending the wrong signals and causing imbalance.
While researchers are optimistic about the study’s results, they’re also open about the inherent risks of brain surgery. Still, patients spoke to NBC News and were excited with their results, which some called immediate. “Within a few days, I could tell that the cravings were becoming under control,” she said. “I wasn’t constantly thinking about food,” said Robyn Baldwin, a 58-year-old woman from California.
While the results are promising, the participants that have discussed their results are both women of a similar age, who are overweight. This means that, at this point, it’s unknown if these effects will be replicated in other patients. Still, it’s an important first step and an exciting result for millions of people who struggle with binge eating disorders.