Metabolic correlates of eating behavior in severe obesity

J. G. Kral, M. C. Buckley, H. R. Kissileff, F. Schaffner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The benefit of spreading energy intake over many small meals ('nibbling') rather than few large ones ('gorging') for control of blood glucose, serum lipids and body fat accretion has been known for 60y, but the mechanisms are poorly understood. Men exhibit more of a gorging eating pattern than women and are also more prone to the metabolic complications of obesity, as are women with a 'male', central distribution of adipose tissue. We have shown correlations between central fat distribution, and other components of the metabolic 'Syndrome X' and fatty infiltration of the liver. Here we study relationships between eating rate and fat distribution and test the hypothesis that gorging might be associated with fatty liver. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: In 30 non-alcoholic, non-diabetic, severely obese women (body mass index, BMI =47±1 kg/m2; mean±s.e.m.) with a mean age of 36±1y and 16 men (BMI: 52±3) age 38±2y, who were candidates for anti-obesity surgery, we measured eating rate using an eating monitor, and fat distribution by the waist-hip circumference ratio (WHR). In addition in the 17 women and 11 men who had surgery, serum lipids were analyzed and routine liver biopsies were evaluated for steatosis by a pathologist blinded to the conditions of the study. RESULTS: Men ate significantly faster than women (188±28 vs 123±9g/min; P < 0.01), and had more liver fat (score: 2.7±03 vs 1.5±0.3; P < 0.01), with no statistically significant sex differences in s-cholesterol or s-trigtycerides. Eating rate correlated with WHR (r=0.46; P ± 0.01, n=46), liver fat (r=0.55; P < 0.01), and s-triglycerides (r=0.42; P < 0.05) adjusting for sex. Liver fat correlated with WH R (r= 0.50; P < 0.05), s-triglycerides (r= 0.70; P < 0.01) and s-cholesterol (r = 0.50; P < 0.05), while there were no significant correlations with BMI or body weight. In multivariate analysis eating rate (32%), meal size (8%) and WHR (6%) contributed 46% of the variance in liver fat. CONCLUSION: We showed increased eating rates in severely obese men and women with central fat distribution. Furthermore, increased eating rates were associated with fatty liver and elevated serum lipids. Eating rate in severely obese women and men may be a determinant of the metabolic syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-264
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Dyslipidemia
  • Fat distribution
  • Fatty liver
  • Syndrome X


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