CINCINNATI, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— An estimated 2.8 million Americans struggle with binge eating disorder. People with the disorder often eat large amounts of food in a short period and feel guilty and unable to stop. Now, researchers want to know more about the role of the body’s sleep-wake cycles, known as the circadian clock.

Food fuels our body and gives us energy but for thousands of Americans eating is an unhealthy obsession.

“Binge eating disorder is the most prevalent eating disorder, and unfortunately there’s still very limited options or targeted options,” explained Francisco Romo-Nava, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist at Lindner Center of Hope at the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Romo-Nava and his colleagues are working to learn how an individual’s body clock plays a part.

“Among the population, it’s estimated that between ten and 15 percent of the population will be morning type, clearly morning types. Then most of the population will be intermediate types between 70, 75 percent and only about five percent of the population is a true evening type,” Dr. Romo-Nava told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Romo-Nava said a master circadian clock in the brain feeds information to cells in the body triggering needs and responses, like getting tired and hungry. He said past research suggests “night owls” might be more susceptible to binge eating behavior.

“Binge eating tends to occur in the second part of the day into the evening and night,” continued Dr. Romo-Nava.

The researchers want to know if re-adjusting the circadian rhythms of people with binge eating disorder could be an effective part of treatment.

The University of Cincinnati researchers are leading a clinical trial of 40 people. Dr. Romo-Nava said they want to determine if the circadian clock does play a significant role in bingeing behavior, and if so, could treatment options like melatonin or light therapy readjust a patient’s body clock.