Food cravings and loss-of-control eating in youth: Associations with gonadal hormone concentrations

Megan N. Parker, Marian Tanofsky-Kraff*, Ross D. Crosby, Meghan E. Byrne, Sarah LeMay-Russell, Taylor N. Swanson, Eliana Ramirez, Lisa M. Shank, Kweku G. Djan, Esther A. Kwarteng, Loie M. Faulkner, Shanna B. Yang, Anna Zenno, K. Karthik Chivukula, Scott G. Engel, Sheila M. Brady, Susan Z. Yanovski, Jack A. Yanovski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Among youth with overweight, food cravings (FC) are associated with loss-of-control (LOC)-eating, but the impact of sex-associated biological characteristics on this relationship is unknown. We examined whether sex and gonadal hormone concentrations moderated the relationships between FC and LOC-eating severity among healthy boys and girls across the weight strata in natural and laboratory environments. Method: Using ecological momentary assessment (EMA), FC, and LOC-eating severity were reported 3–5 times a day for 2 weeks. In the laboratory, participants reported FC, consumed lunch from a buffet test meal designed to simulate LOC-eating, and rated LOC-eating severity during the meal. Results: Eighty-seven youth (13.0 ± 2.7 years, 58.6% female, 32.2% with overweight/obesity) participated. EMA measured general and momentary FC were positively associated with LOC-eating severity (ps <.01), with no differences by sex (ps =.21–.93). Estradiol and progesterone significantly moderated the relationships between FC and LOC-eating such that general FC and LOC-eating severity were only positively associated among girls with greater (vs. lower) estradiol (p =.01), and momentary FC and LOC-eating severity were only positively associated among girls with greater (vs. lower) progesterone (p =.01). Boys' testosterone did not significantly moderate the associations between FC and LOC-eating severity (ps =.36–.97). At the test meal, pre-meal FC were positively related to LOC-eating severity (p <.01), without sex or hormonal moderation (ps =.20–.64). Discussion: FC were related to LOC-eating severity in boys and girls. In the natural environment, gonadal hormones moderated this relationship in girls, but not boys. The mechanisms through which gonadal hormones might affect the relationship between FC and LOC-eating warrant investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1426-1437
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume54
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • adolescents
  • children
  • ecological momentary assessment
  • estradiol
  • food cravings
  • gonadal hormones
  • laboratory intake
  • loss-of-control eating
  • sex
  • testosterone

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