Alexithymia and eating behaviour in severely obese patients

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Abstract Background: 

Alexithymia is the inability to express feelings with words and comprises a psychological construct frequently found in obese individuals. In eating disordered patients who show a tendency to lose control over food intake, personality traits with alexithymic characteristics have been demonstrated. The present cross-sectional study investigated the relationships between alexithymia and eating behaviour in severely obese patients. Methods: 

This study analysed 150 obese patients undergoing bariatric surgery and 132 subjects at more than 1 year after biliopancreatic diversion (BPD), when body weight has steadily normalised and any preoccupation with weight, food and diet has been completely abandoned. Obese and operated subjects completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS), and eating behaviour was assessed via a semi-structured interview exploring binge eating disorder (BED), night eating and emotional eating, as well as by utilisation of the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ). Results: 

Although alexithymic patients showed deranged eating behaviour, as evaluated by the TFEQ scores, the frequency of BED, night eating and emotional eating was similar in alexithymic (TAS > 60) and non-alexithymic patients. However, the prevalence of alexithymia was similar in obese and BPD subjects, whereas, in the operated subjects, TFEQ scores were lower (P < 0.005) than those in obese patients. Conclusions: 

These data suggest that, in severely obese patients, alexithymia does not influence eating behaviour; in severely obese patients, the tendency to lose control over food intake apparently represents a psychological construct that is substantially independent from alexithymia.

Keywords: alexithymia; binge eating disorder; eating behaviour; severe obesity

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

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