Night Eating Syndrome is a disorder that reportedly effects 1.1%–1.5% of the general population, 6%–16% of patients in weight reduction programs, and 8%–42% of candidates for bariatric surgery.
Viewed as a delay in the circadian rhythm of food intake, night eating syndrome is defined by two core criteria: ingestion of at least 25% of daily calories after supper and/or waking up at night and eating at least three times a week.
Studies of the brain of people with Night Eating Syndrome have shown significant elevation of serotonin transporters in the midbrain of night eaters. This elevation may result from a genetic vulnerability transmitted as part of the established heritability of night eating syndrome, which is triggered by the stress that night eaters report.
Night eating may be a pathway to obesity; it preceded the onset of obesity in three studies and predicted major weight gain among female night eaters who were already obese.
Source: Dr. Stunkard, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3535 Market St., Suite 3025, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309; firstname.lastname@example.org(e-mail). Editorial accepted for publication October 2007 (doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07081351) Am J Psychiatry 165:424, April 2008, doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07081351© 2008 American Psychiatric Association