Background: Binge eating predisposes children to excessive weight gain. However, it is unknown if pediatric binge eating predicts other obesity-associated adverse health outcomes.
Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between binge eating and metabolic syndrome (MetS) in children.
Method: Children aged 5-12 years at high risk for adult obesity, either because they were overweight/obese when first examined or because their parents were overweight/obese, were recruited from Washington, DC and its suburbs. Children completed a questionnaire assessment of binge eating at baseline and underwent measurements of MetS components at baseline and at a follow-up visit approximately 5 years later. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure the visceral adipose tissue (VAT) in a subset.
Results: In all, 180 children were studied between July 1996 and August 2010. Baseline self-reported binge eating presence was associated with a 5.33 greater odds of having MetS at follow-up (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.47, 19.27, P=0.01). The association between binge eating and body mass index (BMI) only partially explained changes in MetS components: baseline binge eating predicted higher follow-up triglycerides, even after accounting for baseline triglycerides, baseline BMI, BMI change, sex, race, baseline age and time in study (P = 0.05). Also, adjusting for baseline VAT and demographics, baseline binge eating predicted greater follow-up L(2-3) VAT (P = 0.01).
Discussion: Children's reports of binge eating predicted development of MetS, worsening triglycerides and increased VAT. The excessive weight gain associated with children's binge eating partly explained its adverse metabolic health outcomes. Reported binge eating may represent an early behavioral marker upon which to focus interventions for obesity and MetS.