7 Binge Eating Disorder Side Effects [Medical Conditions Associated with BED]

A variety of medical conditions have been associated with Binge Eating Disorder. Below are descriptions of the most common binge eating disorder side effects.

Binge Eating Disorder Side Effects:  Common Medical Conditions Associated with BED


Hypothyroidism is sometimes found alongside Binge Eating Disorder, and this condition can lead to lethargy and depression, which can add fuel to both binge eating and weight gain.

Nutritional Issues

It is important to remember that regardless of weight, patients with Binge Eating Disorder may have nutritional deficiencies. Some Binge Eating Disorder patients severely restrict food intake for extended periods of time. Thus, they may be deprived of certain macronutrients, micronutrients, or vitamins, and/ or have intermittently low blood sugar.


Biopsychosocial Model of Health



About 45% of those with Binge Eating Disorder are overweight or obese, and among this subset of people with Binge Eating Disorder, medical conditions associated with obesity may occur, including:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • The gut microbiota

The traditional thinking about weight is that it is determined solely by calories in and calories out. However, a growing body of research indicates that gut bacteria plays a major role in predisposing people to being lean or becoming over-weight. Studies have found the intestinal bacteria of overweight people to be less diverse than reciprocal in those for whom weight gain is not an issue. Currently, scientists hypothesize that the tendency to gain weight likely results from a complex interaction between genetic factors and diet and their influence on gut bacteria.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)— a condition that some sources say affects 10% of menstruating women— are especially prone to binge eating. The condition itself can cause weight gain, and that weight gain can fuel the restrictive eating phase and then lead to more bingeing.

One common scenario is that a woman gains weight as a result of PCOS, and then healthcare providers and others push her to lose weight. So she goes into a restrictive pattern of trying to diet. That restrictive mentality leads to binge eating and actually results in Binge Eating Disorder— and often more weight gain added to the weight gain that is already inherent in the polycystic ovarian syndrome itself.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is frequently seen as a complication in those with Binge Eating Disorder. There is a well-documented connection between sleep apnea and obesity, and it is clear that being chronically sleep deprived can be a catalyst for weight gain by leading to dysregulation with food and a diminished capacity to engage in self-care. Additionally, sleep deprivation may lead to added stress, and stress itself can lead to weight gain through of variety of pathways, most notably via elevations of cortisol. 37


Dieting can function as a “gateway behavior” that results in Binge Eating Disorder. Another more obvious pathway is that restrictive eating and unaddressed hunger are well-known triggers for binge eating.

Weight Cycling

Weight cycling (also known as “yo-yo dieting”), repeatedly losing and gaining back weight, is another common cooccurring medical aspect of Binge Eating Disorder. The individual begins a diet for whatever reason and is temporarily able to adhere to a restrictive mentality with food involving significantly reduced caloric intake. However, the metabolism, adversely affected by the reduction in a source for energy, slows down. The reduced metabolism and dysregulation with food ultimately leads to ongoing bingeing and weight gain interspersed with dieting. For example, the person may lose 10 pounds and gain back 20, lose 20 pounds and gain back 30, and over the course of their life this can result in mild to significant weight gain.

The precise medical risks of weight cycling remain controversial. It has been associated with a number of medical consequences, including:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced bone density, resulting in greater risk of fractures
  • Increased risk of gallstones
  • Depressed immune system
  • Depression and anxiety

Weight cycling puts individuals on an emotional and physical rollercoaster that diminishes the quality of life. It must be recognized as a potential driving factor in Binge Eating Disorder and, when present, addressed as part of the Binge Eating Disorder treatment program. While the general public is fairly well informed about the potential risks associated with obesity, many healthcare practitioners and lay people have never received education regarding the serious risks associated with weight cycling.


Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt is a world-leading expert on treating eating disorders. With more than 20 years of clinical experience, Wendy has developed a unique treatment approach that delves into the underlying issues that place a person at risk for mental health conditions and eating disorders and lead to healing, health and inner peace. Wendy, Mental Health Speaker, Eating Disorder Educator, and Mental Health Advocate, currently delivers keynote speeches for leading organizations on topics such as eating disorders, treating serious mental health issues, and healthful approaches to weight concerns. Contact Wendy for your next keynote!

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