Background

Loss of control (LOC) eating in youth is associated with palatable food intake and elevated fasting serum leptin. Trait anxiety is closely linked to, and may exacerbate, LOC eating; further, among youth with LOC, greater anxiety has been associated with metabolic markers. Yet, it remains unclear whether anxiety is uniquely related to patterns of intake and leptin or whether the presence of LOC eating is also required to demonstrate such relationships. We therefore examined if self-reported trait anxiety interacted with LOC eating in models predicting dietary intake patterns and serum leptin.

Methods

In an aggregated sample of youth from 3 studies (N=592; 13.1+/-2.7y; BMIz=0.9+/-1.1; 61.8% female; 53.5% non-Hispanic White; 33.4% with LOC eating), LOC eating was assessed by interview. Dietary intake patterns were objectively assessed using a buffet lunch test meal and serum leptin was measured after an overnight fast. Fat mass was assessed by air displacement plethysmography or DEXA. General linear models adjusted for age, sex, race, height, and each participant’s original study due to slight differences in methodology across studies. Models predicting food intake also adjusted for body fat mass (%) and total mass (kg), while leptin models adjusted for fat mass (kg).

Results

Neither the main effect of anxiety nor the interaction of anxiety and LOC eating was significantly related to percentage intake from sweet fats (carbohydrate + fat) or protein (ps>.29). The main effect of anxiety was not significantly associated with leptin (p=.08), but the interaction of anxiety by LOC eating was significant (p=.02), such that higher trait anxiety related to higher leptin only among youth with LOC eating.

Conclusions

Anxiety did not appear to be independently linked to dietary intake patterns or serum leptin. However, among youth with LOC eating, anxiety may be associated with higher serum leptin. Prospective data are required to elucidate the directionality and mechanisms of this relationship.