The implications of binge eating

Just trudging on with exams, got one tonight and my last one on Thursday- in the home stretch! I’ve also got some really exciting plans post-exams including giving a lecture to a group of high schoolers on metabolism, homeostasis, nutrition etc… am really looking forward to it :). I’m also excited for a Christmas party my roommate and I are throwing this Friday, and of course excited to a) deck our house out with Christmas decorations and b) make Christmas goodies.

Here’s a pic of me climbing earlier this year :)


So with the holiday season approaching, I figured I’d do a post on a common holiday problem: overeating. Hope you enjoy :)

The following will be a description of what should normally happen in a normal sized meal. As we eat, sugar and fat get pushed through our metabolic pathways and create substrates for our Electron Transport Chain (ETC) at the mitochondrial membranes of our cells. The ETC can take those substrates and, by passing electrons through a series of complexes, create energy in the form of ATP. That energy is then transported out of the mitochondria (via the ANT and phosphocreatine shuttle) so that the energy will then be available to our muscles. This is a pretty (maybe overly) simplified description of what happens during the metabolism of fat and sugar for fuel.
So with a little back ground information…

What happens after we binge? When we eat in excess, more substrates become available to the ETC- more than the ETC can handle; a back pressure will be created and the passing of the electrons from complex to complex will be slowed. Ions will spend more time at each complex and have a greater chance to combine with oxygen to form superoxide; more reactive oxygen species will be created. The ROS created, although it has a bad rep from a cancer perspective, serves a purpose in the cell to adjust the ETC to a healthier speed (and in turn result in less ROS produced).

So how does ROS help us then? In order to adjust the ETC to a more suited speed, a lower energy environment (i.e. more ADP: ATP) is required. The ROS inactivates a few enzymes in previous metabolic pathways and results in an increased storage of our fuel in fat (triglycerides), which also (via MalCoA) inactivates fat transporters that bring fat into the mitochondria for metabolism by the ETC. Less substrate will be available to the ETC and the speed will be able to adjust. Triglycerides are the normal and healthy way we should be storing fat. Take home point- one binge won’t kill you… the trouble comes from chronic binging.

Following a westernised diet with regular bouts of excessive calories, the concentrations of triglycerides are much higher; the path to create triglycerides will become saturated and less efficient. The inefficient production of triglycerides will result in more fatty acid intermediates in our cells which are where the big problems lie. The fat intermediates inhibit normal insulin signalling, the ANT at the ETC (leading to more ROS) and also MalCoA’s (from the pathway to store energy in the form of triglycerides) ability to block fat uptake by the mitochondria. Take home point- chronically overeating leads to chronically higher levels of ROS created from the ETC. If we want to protect ourselves from excessive ROS production from the ETC, our bodies need to divert fat and sugar away from the mitochondria. We can decrease the ROS from the ETC by either exercise (increased turnover) or smaller caloric intakes (less substrates).

So on a more macro level… fat is the first insult from chronically binging; we will have a harder time storing fat properly. Less subcutaneous (which is protective) and more visceral (pro-inflammatory) fat may eventually result. As fat cells increase in size, their vasculature decreases leading to hypoxia and then inflammation and macrophage recruitment. These fat cells will end up releasing both cytokines (which promote inflammation) and excess fatty acids (which promote an unhealthy fat distribution and toxicity to other tissues). Insulin resistance will soon also occur in the fat cells.

I could write a book about the negative effects from binge eating, but for the sake of keeping this (relatively) brief- I’ll end here. It’s easy to fall into a trap of constantly overeating, which is pretty well the norm in North America. One binge leads to two and so on and so forth. Hopefully this gives some of you guys more incentive towards sticking to a healthy diet, especially with Christmas around the corner.

Wish me luck on tonight’s exam!


Dulloo AG, Montani JP. (2012) Body composition, inflammation and thermogenesis in pathways to obesity and the metabolic syndrome: an overview. Obes Rev. Suppl 2:1-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01032.x.

Fantino M. (2011)Role of lipids in the control of food intake. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. (2):138-44. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283437b78.

Kassab A, Piwowar A. (2012) Cell oxidant stress delivery and cell dysfunction onset in type 2 diabetes. Biochimie.:1837-48. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2012.01.020.

Martínez JA. (2006)Mitochondrial oxidative stress and inflammation: an slalom to obesity and insulin resistance. J Physiol Biochem.:303-6.

Medina-Gómez G. (2012) Mitochondria and endocrine function of adipose tissue. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab.:791-804. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2012.06.002.

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81 comments on “The implications of binge eating

  1. Wild Juggler says:

    This part is especially important : “These fat cells will end up releasing both cytokines (which promote inflammation) and excess fatty acids (which promote an unhealthy fat distribution and toxicity to other tissues). Insulin resistance will soon also occur in the fat cells.”

    It can’t be repeated enough that too much visceral fat acts like an organ that pumps toxins throughout the body. I know you will do great on your exams.

  2. Good luck on your exam! :)

  3. Good Luck on your exams! I really enjoy reading your blog :)

  4. I probably need to tape this one to the frig. Many thanks!

  5. This is a great summary, I love reading your stuff because you go into the “how it works” instead of just “this is bad”. Good luck on your exam!

  6. Good luck on your exam! I have always been alarmed by the fact that just ONE fatty, enormous meal can bring on a heart attack. !!!! Clearly, you have to already have heart issues, but still. Anyway, break a leg on those tests and enjoy your holiday decorating. :)

  7. mbabb6 says:

    I used to have a problem with binge eating, and after reading this post, I am even happier that I have kicked that habit, thanks for enlightening me on the health effects! Good luck on your exams!! I feel your pain ha

  8. pursuitofhappieness says:

    Good luck Jen! what a great post, thanks!

  9. Good luck with the exams! and thanks for the reminder not to binge eat during the holidays=) It’s always so tempting to eat just a bit more. And enjoy your time climbing. It’s a great stress relief after so much school!

  10. Good luck on the exam, I like how you broke that down. I went vegan in part because my doctors told me I had an eating disorder and I needed to focus my “compulsions” on something else. So now I just “obsess” over things like which good foods I can nourish my body with. I have found that it helps immensely. Keep up the blogging!

    • That sounds like a really smart plan on your part for controlling an eating disorder (very difficult task!); I’m happy to hear that you were able to shift to healthier eating habits :). Thanks for the comment!

  11. Sophie33 says:

    Thanks for this post & I hope you did well on your exam!!

  12. Terri Byars says:

    The next time you post like this use laymen’s terms. I couldn’t understand this blog. I hope you do write a book. This is a much needed topic for a book, but please simplify the words for us who have not taken courses in advanced nutrition and science.

    • I try pretty hard to break down the concepts I’m trying to get across; sometimes it’s hard because it all makes perfect sense to me- I’ll keep working on that and hopefully improve for my up and coming posts :). Thanks for the comment!

    • Fabiana F says:

      How about using Google to search for terms you don’t understand? Expanding one’s knowledge is good exercise for the mind and a good habit to counter complacency, entitlement, and general laziness.

  13. Loving your posts! Hope you are surviving (or have survived) your finals!

  14. Wendy says:

    Nice post! Thanks for visiting our happy little homestead @ Stand Upon Grace! Stop by again anytime!

  15. good post.. i always tell my friends who eat pretty unhealthy you are what you eat and its true because down to a cellular level shows how food really effects everything! goodluck on your exam!

  16. Sinéad says:

    Hi Jen, I’m really glad to have found your blog. I’m interested in all things health and yum too: ) Hope the exam went well! Rock climbing looks awesome! Though I bet you need a head for heights… I don’t have one. Look forward to reading more of your posts IN 2013

    • Exam went really well I think, one more to go tomorrow and I’m done- wohoo! Rock climbing is awesome, nothing like it :)… I really believe its one of the best things to do to build confidence in yourself… I’m a completely different person than who I was before I climbed. As for the heights, a lot of my climbing partners (who are now climbing at a pretty high level) started off afraid of heights… being up there is a really good way of getting over your fear :). Thanks for the comment, and hopefully I’ve encouraged you to give climbing a try :)

  17. First, thanks for stopping by our blog. It is so exciting to meet new bloggers and foodies! Second, how did the exam go? Love your “how-it-works” approach. You bring to light a micro-environment that truly helps the reader picture what actually happens when we do not treat the body kindly. Looking forward to reading more of your posts over time. May we ask where you are located, just out of curiosity? Enjoy the Holiday season.

    • The exam went really well! One more to go and then I have a month long christmas break :D. I’m glad you like it :). I’m located in Ontario (close to Toronto) (Canada lol). Thanks for the comment :)


  19. Janet Rörschåch says:

    Good luck on those exams. Keep writing. You are an excellent communicator. Those kids are in for a treat when you give your lecture. Thanks for stopping by and liking my post.

  20. emileeorear says:

    Great post! Very detailed, yet easy to understand. Thank you.

  21. Jenny says:

    Very informative!! Thanks for sharing this information!
    Hopefully your exams go well! =)

  22. Sonya Milu says:

    I love your science background in nutrition. I know I will enjoy reading your posts! Looking forward in reading more :)

  23. owen59 says:

    Just came your way. Great blog. Excellent you are blogging and studying on this important area of living and health.

  24. Great blog. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

  25. JoDee Luna says:

    Excellent, informative post. I sure can relate!

  26. This article presents clear idea for the new visitors of blogging, that really how to
    do blogging.

  27. Sonya Milu says:

    Great post Jenna! You need to check out Dr. Pam Popper out of Ohio. She is right up your alley! She runs a Wellness Center and is an amazing plethora of knowledge. I have known her for several years and I always consult her works and resources for clients. Educating people on the science of nutrition and eating a plant-based diet is her passion. She works extensively with people like Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr John McDougall. She was in the movie Forks Over Knives. Great documentary if you have not already seen it.

  28. Derek W. says:

    How often is it safe to ‘binge’ do you think? I know bodybuilders who ‘binge’ every weekend to replenish on their carbs (they do low carb). What do you think of that Jen?
    Good luck on exams, I hope you make a blog post about your grades.

    • Its never really ‘safe’ to binge eat, binging can really throw off a whole weeks effort… In the case of a body builder, they are doing a highly controlled carb load following a week of low-GI eating… while it has been shown to have some very good results there for body building, I wouldn’t recommend eating that way for almost anyone else. I was thinking about doing a blog post on ‘cheat days or meals’, so stick around if your interested in reading more :)

  29. Bev says:

    Good info Jen. Hopefully it will make me think twice before I overeat this holiday season! Good luck with your lecture!

  30. Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you
    know a few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

  31. Heya this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  32. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that
    it is truly informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels.
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  33. Spencer says:

    Excellent website. Lots of helpful information here.
    I’m sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you for your effort!

  34. says:

    Incredible points. Sound arguments. Keep up the good effort.

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