Background. Prisoners in Nazi concentration camps lived through extreme situations that included
starvation. We test our hypothesis that there is a greater lifetime presence of binge eating among
survivors from concentration camps than in a control group.
Methods. The subjects were 51 political prisoners who survived Nazi concentration camps and 47
ex-partisans of similar age and sex. A clinical interview investigated the lifetime occurrence of binge
eating. The Eating Attitudes Test was also administered.
Results. The mean reported loss of weight among survivors was 27·3 kg. Thirty-three per cent of
them and 4% of the ex-partisans reported going on eating binges at some time in their lives
(P < 0·0007). There was no significant difference in the Eating Attitudes Test scores of survivors
and ex-partisans, but, among survivors, the Bulimia subscale significantly discriminated subjects
who reported current binge eating.
Conclusions. Our study confirms that subjects who have survived a period of extreme food
deprivation are more likely to develop binge eating behaviour.