Eating moderates the link between body mass index and perceived social connection


Some studies have demonstrated that heavier people perceive themselves as lacking social connections, whereas others have not. The current study investigated whether eating alters the link between body mass index (BMI) and perceived social connection, providing one explanation for inconsistencies across previous studies. Participants were instructed to refrain from eating or drinking anything except water after 9 p.m. the prior night. Upon arrival at the lab, participants were assigned to the food (n = 63) or no food (n = 110) condition. They also provided a saliva sample that was assayed for ghrelin (an appetite-relevant hormone), and completed a series of questionnaires about their relationships. Participants with a higher BMI felt more socially disconnected than people with a lower BMI, but only among those who had not recently eaten. BMI and perceived social disconnection were unrelated among people who had recently eaten. These results were consistent across multiple measures of perceived social disconnection, and also across the experimental manipulation and continuously measured ghrelin.