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Researchers Testing New Treatment To Combat Binge Eating Disorder

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Binge eating disorder is a legitimate psychiatric problem that is a lot more common than many people realize. Research is happening in Philadelphia to test a new treatment.

Chris Fitzgerald says he finally has his eating under control after struggling with his binge-eating disorder for years.

"I would always pick two packs of Oodles of Noodles, ramen noodles, four hot dogs," Fitzgerald said while describing what would happen after a regular dinner. "I may indulge in a Tastykake, box of Tastykake crumpets, and it was just no control."

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The 34-year-old from Southwest Philadelphia never felt full. At 375 pounds, he was depressed and disgusted and decided to be a part of a trial testing a new drug at Penn Medicine.

"I'm feeling better, feeling more energized," said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald gets regular concealing and weigh-ins, along with medication. The believe study is testing the drug Saxenda, a randomized trial so people don't know if they're getting the real thing or a placebo.

"I noticed the difference and I didn't want to eat as much as I used to," he said.

"It does work to help to decrease appetite," said Kelly Allison, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.

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Allison says Saxenda is already approved for weight loss and now researchers want to find out if it would work for binge eaters, too.

"Eating disorders are psychiatric disorders, we like to think of them as brain disorders that are influenced by the environment," explained Allison. "I think a lot of people sometimes blame weight and eating issues just on willpower and laziness or lack of self-control, but we do know that people's brains are wired differently in response to food, and binge eating disorders are the most prevalent of the eating disorders."

Now that he's no longer binging, Fitzgerald has lost 25 pounds in the 13 weeks he's been part of the research.

"This had to have been a miracle. It's no way that I can go from feeling like I was always hungry to feeling like, 'Hey, you had enough. Go to bed,'" said Fitzgerald. "The fact that it worked for me, I couldn't be happier."

Binge eating isn't overindulging once in a while, it's out-of-control eating that happens at least once a week for three months.

Penn is recruiting more people to be part of the research to test the drug.

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