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Elizabeth A Lawson, Kamryn T Eddy, Daniel Donoho, Madhusmita Misra, Karen K Miller, Erinne Meenaghan, Janet Lydecker, David Herzog and Anne Klibanski

Objective

Disordered eating occurs in women at both weight extremes of anorexia nervosa (AN) and obesity. Cortisol, peptide YY (PYY), leptin, and ghrelin are hormones involved in appetite and feeding behavior that vary with weight and body fat. Abnormal levels of these hormones have been reported in women with AN, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), and obesity. The relationship between appetite-regulating hormones and disordered eating psychopathology is unknown. We therefore studied the relationship between orexigenic and anorexigenic hormones and disordered eating psychopathology in women across a range of weights.

Design

A cross-sectional study of 65 women, 18–45 years: 16 with AN, 12 normal-weight with HA, 17 overweight or obese, and 20 normal-weight in good health.

Methods

Two validated measures of disordered eating psychopathology, the Eating Disorders Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and Eating Disorders Inventory-2 (EDI-2), were administered. Fasting PYY, leptin, and ghrelin levels were measured; cortisol levels were pooled from serum samples obtained every 20 min from 2000 to 0800 h.

Results

Cortisol and PYY levels were positively associated with disordered eating psychopathology including restraint, eating concerns, and body image disturbance, independent of body mass index (BMI). Although leptin levels were negatively associated with disordered eating psychopathology, these relationships were not significant after controlling for BMI. Ghrelin levels were generally not associated with EDE-Q or EDI-2 scores.

Conclusions

Higher levels of cortisol and PYY are associated with disordered eating psychopathology independent of BMI in women across the weight spectrum, suggesting that abnormalities in appetite regulation may be associated with specific eating disorder pathologies.