Isn't This Just Bedtime Snacking?: The potential adverse effects of night-eating symptoms on treatment adherence and outcomes in patients with diabetes

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Night-eating syndrome is characterized by excessive eating in the evening and nocturnal awakening with ingestion of food. Psychosocial variables and emotional triggers may be associated with these behaviors. In patients with diabetes, such behaviors may lead to glucose dysregulation and contribute to obesity and complications.


In 714 tertiary care patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes, we determined the proportion of patients reporting eating >25% of their daily food intake after regular suppertime. We also screened patients for major depression, childhood maltreatment histories, nonsecure attachment styles, and emotional eating triggers. We examined whether patients reporting night-eating behaviors had greater psychosocial distress, higher HbA1c (A1C) levels, more obesity, and more diabetes complications compared with patients without night-eating behaviors.


Night-eating behaviors were reported in 9.7% of patients. Compared with patients without night-eating behaviors, those with these behaviors were less adherent with diet, exercise, and glucose monitoring and more likely to be depressed, to report childhood maltreatment histories, to have nonsecure attachment styles, and to report eating in response to anger, sadness, loneliness, worry, and being upset. Controlling for age, sex, race, and major depression, patients with night-eating behaviors, compared with patients without night-eating behaviors, were more likely to be obese (odds ratio 2.6 [95% CI 1.5–4.5]), to have A1C values >7% (2.2 [1.1–4.1]) and to have two or more diabetes complications (2.6 [1.5–4.5]).


Night-eating behaviors are associated with adverse outcomes in patients with diabetes. Use of clinical screening tools may help identify patients with night-eating behaviors.

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