Night eating syndrome increased in schizophrenia patients

By Mark Cowen, Senior medwireNews Reporter

The prevalence of night eating syndrome (NES) is significantly increased among patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who are obese, results from a US study suggest.

The researchers found that the prevalence of NES in obese schizophrenia patients was as high as 12%, depending on the criteria used, which is significantly higher than estimated prevalence of the disorder among the general population, at 1.5%.

"These results highlight the need for improved assessment of this disordered eating pattern in [schizophrenia] patients," say Laura Palmese (Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut) and colleagues.

The team studied 100 outpatients (61% women) with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who were aged an average of 46.5 years and had a mean body mass index (BMI) of 38.2 kg/m2.

All of the participants completed the Night Eating Questionnaire (NEQ) and were interviewed about their night eating behaviors.

According to the NEQ, NES is defined by evening overeating (at least 25% of total food intake), nocturnal awakenings to eat at least twice a week, awareness of night-time eating, distress or impaired functioning, and at least three of the following: strong desire/urge to night eat, insomnia, belief that one must eat to get to sleep, and depressed mood in the evening. These symptoms must also be present for at least 3 months.

Based on results from the NEQ alone, 8% of the patients met full criteria for NES, with a further 8% meeting subthreshold criteria.

Based on results from the NEQ and clinical interviews, 12% of patients had NES and a further 10% had partial NES symptoms.

The researchers also found that patients with night eating behaviors (full and subthreshold NES) had higher levels of depression and insomnia than those without, with Beck Depression Inventory scores of 15.5 versus 10.0 and Insomnia Severity Index scores of 12.3 versus 8.0.

Palmese et al conclude in Comprehensive Psychiatry: "Our findings suggest that screening for NES among patients with serious mental illness may efficiently identify a subgroup with additional clinical needs."

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