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Affect and eating behavior in obese adults with and without elevated depression symptoms

Date Published: 4/15

Abstract: 

Objective—Although there is a modest relation between obesity and depression, mechanisms that contribute to this co-occurrence are unclear. This study examined mood and eating behavior among obese adults with and without elevated depression symptoms.

Method—Obese adults (N=50) were subtyped according to a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) cutoff of 14, indicating “probable depression.” Participants with (BDI≥14; n=15) and without elevated depression symptoms (BDI<14; n=35) were compared on affect- and eating-related variables measured via questionnaire and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) using ANCOVA and mixed model regression.

Results—After adjusting for group differences in body mass index (BMI; p=.03), participants
with elevated depression symptoms reported greater emotional eating via self-report questionnaire [F(1,50)=4.3; p=.04], as well as more frequent binge eating (Wald chi-square=13.8; p<.001) and higher daily negative affect (Wald chi-square=7.7; p=.005) on EMA recordings. Emotional eating mediated the relationship between depression status and BMI (indirect effect estimate=3.79; 95% CI=1.02–7.46).

Discussion—Emotional eating and binge eating were more commonly reported by obese adults with elevated depression symptoms compared to those without, and may occur against a general backdrop of overall low mood. Intervention and prevention programs for obesity and/or depression should address disordered eating to prevent or minimize adverse health consequences.

Authors: Andrea B. Goldschmidt, Ph.D.1, Ross D. Crosby, Ph.D.2, Scott G. Engel, Ph.D.3, Scott J. Crow, M.D.4, Li Cao, M.S.2, Carol B. Peterson, Ph.D.4, and Nora Durkin, M.A.4

1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
2Department of Biostatistics, Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, University of North Dakota School of Medicine, Fargo, North Dakota, USA
3Department of Clinical Research, Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, and Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Fargo, North Dakota, USA
4Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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