Heart Rate Variability and Laboratory-Based Loss-of-Control Eating in Children and Adolescents

Megan N. Parker, Loie M. Faulkner, Lisa M. Shank, Natasha A. Schvey, Lucy K. Loch, Hannah E. Haynes, Bess F. Bloomer, Nasreen A. Moursi, Syeda Fatima, Jennifer A. Te-Vazquez, Sheila M. Brady, Shanna B. Yang, Sara A. Turner, Marian Tanofsky-Kraff, Jack A. Yanovski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Among youth, greater heart rate (HR) and lesser HR variability (HRV) are precursors to loss-of-control (LOC) eating episodes in the natural environment. However, there are limited data examining whether pre-meal HR and HRV are associated with greater LOC-eating in the laboratory setting. We therefore examined temporal relationships between pre-meal HR, frequency- and time-based metrics of pre-meal HRV, perceived LOC-eating, and energy intake during a meal designed to simulate a LOC-eating episode. Among 209 participants (54.5% female, 12.58 ± 2.72 years, 0.52 ± 1.02 BMIz), 19 reported LOC-eating in the prior month. Perceived LOC-eating during the laboratory meal was not significantly linked to pre-meal HR (p = 0.37), but was positively related to pre-meal HRV (ps = 0.02–0.04). This finding was driven by youth with recent LOC-eating, as these associations were not significant when analyses were run only among participants without recent reported LOC-eating (p = 0.15–0.99). Pre-meal HR and HRV were not significantly related to total energy intake (ps = 0.27–0.81). Additional research is required to determine whether early-stage pediatric LOC-eating is preceded by a healthy pre-meal stress response. Longitudinal studies could help clarify whether this pattern becomes less functional over time among youth who develop recurrent LOC-eating episodes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4027
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • binge-eating
  • child
  • development
  • energy intake
  • heart rate
  • heart rate variability
  • overeating


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