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Examining the mediating roles of binge eating and emotional eating in the relationships between stress and metabolic abnormalities

Abstract

To test whether binge eating and emotional eating mediate the relationships between self-reported stress, morning cortisol and the homeostatic model of insulin resistance and waist circumference. We also explored the moderators of gender and age. Data were from 249 adults (mean BMI = 26.9 ± 5.1 kg/m2; mean age = 28.3 ± 8.3 years; 54.2 % male; 69.5 % white) recruited from the community who were enrolled in a cross-sectional study. Participants completed a comprehensive assessment panel of psychological and physiological assessments including a morning blood draw for plasma cortisol. We found negative relationships between stress and morning cortisol (r = −0.15 to −0.21; p < 0.05), and cortisol and the homeostatic model of insulin resistance and waist circumference (r = −0.16, −0.25, respectively; p < 0.05). There was not statistical support for binge eating or emotional eating as mediators and no support for moderated mediation for either gender or age; however, gender moderated several paths in the model. These include the paths between perceived stress and emotional eating (B = 0.009, p < 0.001), perceived stress and binge eating (B = 0.01, p = 0.003), and binge eating and increased HOMA-IR (B = 0.149, p = 0.018), which were higher among females. Among women, perceived stress may be an important target to decrease binge and emotional eating. It remains to be determined what physiological and psychological mechanisms underlie the relationships between stress and metabolic abnormalities.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank all of our study participants and our funding sources. The National Institute on Drug Abuse/National Institute of Health (NIH) grants PL1-DA024859 and UL1-DE019859 funded this study. AC was funded by pre-doctoral fellowships from the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence and the National Institute of Nursing Research/NIH (F31-NR014375; T32-NR008346). CMG was funded, in part, by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease/NIH (K24-DK070052). These funding sources did not participate in designing the study, collecting data, analyzing and interpreting data, writing this report, or submitting the article for publication.

Author contributions

Study concept and design: AC, MG, RW, JRS, CMG, RS. Acquisition and collection of data: RS. Analysis of data: AC. Obtained funding for study: AC, RS. Administrative, technical, and material support: RS. All authors were involved in writing and revising the paper, and provided final approval of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ariana Chao.

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Ariana Chao, Margaret Grey, Robin Whittemore, Jonathan Reuning-Scherer, Carlos M. Grilo and Rajita Sinha declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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Chao, A., Grey, M., Whittemore, R. et al. Examining the mediating roles of binge eating and emotional eating in the relationships between stress and metabolic abnormalities. J Behav Med 39, 320–332 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9699-1

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