Night eating: prevalence and demographic correlates

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Jan;14(1):139-47. doi: 10.1038/oby.2006.17.


Objective: To examine the prevalence and correlates of night eating, the core behavioral symptom of night eating syndrome among adolescents and adults, using two public access survey databases of nationally representative samples.

Research methods and procedures: Data were extracted for individuals age 13 years or older who completed food diary data for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (N = 18,407) or the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (N = 10,741). Prevalence estimates were calculated for three commonly used definitions of night eating. Logistic regression was used to examine correlates of night eating: type of day, season, gender, age, race/ethnicity, and BMI or obesity.

Results: With few exceptions, findings were similar in the two surveys. Night eating is most common during the weekend; prevalence is greatest among young adults (18 to 30 years of age) and least common among individuals age 65 years or older; and is not associated with BMI or obesity. Gender or ethnicity effects were not found to be stable across surveys.

Discussion: Experts need to consider type of day, age group, and possibly gender and race/ethnicity when examining population differences in night eating. Longitudinal studies are needed to further examine the link between night eating and obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Demography
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Seasons
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology