How obesity relates to socio-economic status: identification of eating behavior mediators

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Socio-economic status (SES) is a strong determinant of eating behavior and the obesity risk.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine which eating and lifestyle behaviors mediate the association between SES and obesity.

METHODS:

We performed a case-control study of 318 obese people and 371 non-obese people in northern France. Ten eating behavior traits were assessed using the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire Revised 21-Item and an eating attitude questionnaire (on plate size, the number of servings, reasons for stopping eating and the frequency of eating standing up, eating in front of the television set (TV) and eating at night). The SES score (in three categories) was based on occupation, education and income categories. Mediation analysis was performed using the test of joint significance and the difference of coefficients test.

RESULTS:

The age- and gender-adjusted obesity risk was higher for individuals in the low-SES groups (odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.82 (1.48–2.24), P<0.0001). Additional servings were associated with a higher obesity risk (OR = 3.43, P<0.0001). Cognitive restraint (P<0.0001) and emotional eating (P<0.0001) scores were higher in obese participants than in non-obese participants but did not depend on SES. Of the 10 potential factors tested, eating off a large plate (P = 0.01), eating at night (P = 0.04) and uncontrolled eating (P = 0.03) significantly mediated the relationship between SES and obesity.

CONCLUSION:

Our results highlighted a number of obesogenic behaviors among socially disadvantaged participants: large plate size, uncontrolled eating and eating at night were significant mediators of the relationship between SES and the obesity risk.

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