PED-t trial

Eating disorders (EDs) is among the top ten of the gender and age adjusted global burden of diseases in terms of poor quality of life, affecting young women in particular. Less than half of the persons with the EDs bulimia nervosa (BN) or binge eating disorder (BED) are detected and offered treatment for their ED in primary care. Besides low detection rate; low mental health literacy, and long waitlists for special care are important causes to this scenario. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is recognized as the preferred evidence based treatment option for BN and BED, still more than 60% do not fully abstain from symptoms. There is a need to explore new treatment options that circumvent the challenges with low treatment access and poor remission rate. Evidence suggest that regular physical activity effectively prevents and treats physical- and mental morbidity and mortality, contributing to improvements in quality of life. Physical exercise is however, rarely incorporated in treatment of EDs out of fear of exacerbating the compulsive and excessive nature of exercise in patients for compensatory or affect regulation purposes.



Place: Aud. Innsikt, NIH. Prøveforelesning, "Prevention and treatment of obesity: physiological and psychological aspects"

Formal title

PED-t – treatment of eating disorders with physical exercise and dietary therapy, a ranomized, controlled trial


We aimed to evaluate the effect of a new treatment method for women with BN or BED, combining guided physical exercise and dietary therapy (PED-t), being offered as group therapy. The novel
treatment method was compared to the effect of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and a waitlist control group.


During 2014-2016 totally 187 women with BN or BED, aged 18-40 and with BMI 17.5-35 were enrolled, and allocated to PED-t (n=82) or CBT (n=82), or temporarily placed in a waitlist control group (n=23).

Effect from 16 weeks of treatment by either CBT or PED-t, or being in control group, was evaluated and compared at baseline (T1), post-test (T2) and follow-up periods (6 months, T3, and 12 months, T4).

Outcomes were blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), muscle strength (1RM), physical activity, body composition, compulsive exercise (CE), remission from diagnosis, and alleviation of ED-symptoms (by EDE-q) and comorbidity.

Measures were by cardiopulmonary exercise testing, 1RM strength tests, DXA, objective registration of physical activity, and questionnaires.


In total 156 met for baseline screening, of whom 103 were diagnosed with BN and 53 with BED. Overall, participants with BN or BED displayed adequate physical fitness; however, a high number had high blood pressure, low CRF and unfavorable body composition. The number of randomized participants (n=164) that met for therapy was 149, of whom 112 completed treatment (32% drop out). Dropouts and completers were different by a lower mean score for depression amongst completers, and significantly more from CBT were lost to follow-up at T3 and T4 compared to PED-t. About 40-70% of all participants scored above clinical cut-off in the compulsive exercise test (CET) at baseline. CBT and PED-t were equally effective in reducing compulsive exercise after 16 weeks of treatment, with sustained long-term effects (T3-T4). The proportion of participants that complied with the official recommendation for physical activity (~47%) neither changed following treatment, nor emerged different between the therapy arms. After treatment mean EDE-q global score improved more in the PED-t group compared to the CBT group and to the control group, whereas CBT did not differ from the control group. Numbers in full- or partial remission were higher in PED-t (29.0% and 19.7%) and CBT (12.4% and 16.7%) compared to control (0.1% and 5.6%). Both therapies resulted in significant improvement in life quality, but mood rating only improved in PED-t with short-lived effect. Long-term effects (T3-T4) from therapies were equally successful in remission rates, alleviation from ED-symptoms and improvements in quality of life.

The finding of a high number with impaired physical fitness calls for inclusion of physical fitness evaluation in routine clinical examinations, and for guided physical activity and dietary therapy in the treatment of BN and BED. Both indirect (CBT) and direct (PED-t) approaches may be successful in reducing CE with sustained long-term effect. Neither approaches raised the level of physical activity or compliance with official recommendations for physical activity, hence a need to increase mean physical activity towards healthy levels remains unsolved. The therapeutic effect from PED-t was comparable to the current preferred therapy (CBT), hence it may be an alternative pathway to recovery from BN and BED. A high availability of professionals within exercise medicine and dietetics may attract new segments of ED patients and circumvent the poor access to mental health services

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