Introduction: Emotional eating is increasing within the general population, which mirrors current obesity trends. However, limited information is available on the prevalence and factors associated with emotional eating in a weight loss seeking population. This study aims to estimate the prevalence and strength of factors associated with emotional eating in a weight loss seeking population.
Methods: 387 adults from medical or surgical weight loss clinics completed the Emotional Eating Scale (EES) questionnaire. Age, height, weight, weight loss medications and history of bariatric surgery was extracted from medical records. Prevalence was defined by an EES score of ≥25, and strength of associations were estimated by boot-strapped quantile regression. Results are presented as quantile difference (QD) of EES scores at 25th, 50th and 75th quantile, and 95% confidence interval (CI).
Results: Study participants consisted of 70.5% females with a median age of 51.6 years (interquartile range: 19.7) and a body mass index of 42.1 kg/m2 (interquartile range: 12.1). The prevalence of emotional eating was 57.9% (95% CI: 52.8%, 62.9%). Emotional eating was associated with age <40 years (25th QD: 10 [95% CI: 2.1, 17.9]), female sex (50th QD: 9 [95% CI: 2.7, 15.3]; 75th QD: 12 [95% CI: 3.8, 20.2]), use of glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists (GLP-1; 25th QD: -7 [95% CI: -13.2, -0.8]), history of sleeve gastrectomy (25th QD: -9 [95% CI: -17.3, -0.7]) and bariatric surgery within 365 days (25th QD: -10 [95% CI: -17.3, -2.7]; 50th QD: -12 [95% CI: -22.9, -1.1]).
Conclusion: These findings suggest that many patients seeking obesity treatment are affected by emotional eating, especially younger people and women. Furthermore, use of GLP-1 agonists, sleeve gastrectomy and recent bariatric surgery are associated with lower levels of emotional eating. These findings allow hypothesis generation for further studies, providing a clue to the underlying physiological mechanisms behind emotional eating.