Biol Res Nurs 2018 10 31;20(5):531-540. Epub 2018 May 31.
2 Digestive Disorders Unit, Division of Intramural Research, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, USA.
The purpose of the study was to examine the interrelationships among stress, eating behavior, and adiposity in a cohort of normal- and overweight individuals. Clinical markers of physiological stress (fasting serum cortisol) and adiposity (body mass index [BMI] and percent body fat) were obtained from participants selected for a natural history protocol ( n = 107). Self-reported data on eating behavior (using the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire subscales such as Cognitive Restraint, Disinhibition, and Hunger) and psychological stress (via the Perceived Stress Scale) were evaluated. Demographic information was incorporated using principal component analysis, which revealed sex- and weight-based differences in stress, adiposity, and eating behavior measures. Following a cross-sectional and descriptive analysis, significant correlations were found between the Disinhibition and Hunger eating behavior subscales and measures of adiposity including BMI ( r = .30, p = .002 and r = .20, p = .036, respectively) and percent body fat ( r = .43, p = .000 and r = .22, p = .022, respectively). Relationships between stress measures and eating behavior were also evident in the analysis. Disinhibition and Hunger correlated positively with perceived stress ( r = .32, p .001 and r = .26, p = .008, respectively). However, Disinhibition varied inversely with serum cortisol levels ( r = -.25, p = .009). Future studies are warranted to better understand this paradox underlying the effects of perceived and physiological stress on eating behavior.