Using pre-prandial blood glucose to assess eating in the absence of hunger in free-living individuals

Susan M. Schembre, Yue Liao, Jimi Huh, Stefan Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Our ability to understand and intervene on eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) as it occurs in peoples' natural environments is hindered by biased methods that lack ecological validity. One promising indicator of EAH that does not rely on self-report and is easily assessed in free-living individuals is glucose. Here, we hypothesize that elevated pre-prandial blood glucose concentrations (PPBG), which reflect a source of readily-available, short-term energy, are a biological indicator of EAH. This was a 7-day observational study of N = 41, 18–24 year old men and women with BMI < 25 kg/m2 (60%) or BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2 (40%). We collected data using ecological momentary assessment from people in their natural environments. We defined EAH by self-report (perceived EAH) and by PPBG thresholds using two methods (standardized, PPBG < 85 mg/dl; personalized, PPBG < individual fasting levels). Multilevel modeling was used to analyze the data. N = 963 eating events were reported. There were significantly (p < .05) fewer perceived EAH events (25%) as compared to standardized (62%) and personalized PPBG-defined EAH events (51%). Consistent with published literature, perceived EAH was more likely to occur at a higher PPBG (p < .01), particularly among participants with a BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2 (pint < .01). Additionally, discordance between perceived EAH and PPBG-defined EAH, indicating a perception of hunger at an eating event when PPBS was elevated, was less likely among participants with a BMI < 25 kg/m2 vs. those with a BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2 (pint < .01) as well as at snacks vs. meals (pint < .01). These findings provide preliminary support for using PPBG as a biological indicator of EAH in free-living individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101411
JournalEating Behaviors
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood glucose
  • Eating behavior
  • Eating in absence of hunger
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Using pre-prandial blood glucose to assess eating in the absence of hunger in free-living individuals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this