Night Eating Syndrome Linked to High BMI, Poor Metabolic Health

July 9, 2014
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Since many patients with night eating syndrome (NES) believe they will not fall back asleep until they ingest a full meal, it's no surprise that NES is associated with obesity and metabolic abnormalities.

Since many patients with night eating syndrome (NES) believe they will not fall back asleep until they ingest a full meal, it’s no surprise that NES is associated with obesity and metabolic abnormalities.

In a study published in Eating Behaviors that examined the metabolic health correlates of NES, a team of researchers followed 310 women and 305 men who clearly had misaligned eating and sleep behaviors. All of the patients completed a Night Eating Questionnaire (NEQ) and supplied anthropometric data, fasting blood samples, and blood pressure readings. Though the researchers diagnosed metabolic syndrome (MetS), they relied on patient self-reports for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) diagnoses.

According to the study authors, increasing scores on the NEQ correlated positively with increasing body mass index (BMI). However, after controlling for BMI, NEQ scores correlated negatively with blood pressure in women — an unexpected result that could not be explained by the use of antihypertensive medication. Among men, NEQ scores correlated positively with waist circumference and triglyceride levels.

Regardless of sex, all patients diagnosed with MetS had more morning anorexia. In women, a MetS diagnoses also correlated with urges to eat at night. Additionally, T2DM was associated with depressed mood in women and insomnia in men.

The study confirmed that NES symptoms often translate to higher BMI and poorer metabolic health, though the relationships differed by sex. Since morning anorexia and the urge to eat at night were reported more frequently among participants with MetS, the researchers said tracking NES patients’ patterns of food intake may help address the causes of MetS.