The relationship between risk of eating disorders, age, gender and body mass index in medical students: a meta-regression

  • Haitham Jahrami
  • Zahraa Saif
  • Mo’ez Al-Islam Faris
  • Michael P. LevineEmail author



Age, gender and body mass index (BMI) are commonly described risk factors for the development of eating disorders. However, the magnitude of these factors (individually and together) is still not well-defined in some populations.


A systematic search was performed for studies that reported the prevalence of eating disorder risk among medical students using the Eating Attitudes Test-26 (EAT-26) and age, gender and BMI as risk factors. We included studies published in English peer-reviewed journals between 1982 and 2017. A total of 14 studies were included in the analyses, and the meta-regression analyses were performed using mean age (years), gender (proportion of female subjects), and mean BMI (kg/m2) as moderators with the risk of eating disorders measured using EAT-26 as an outcome variable. Four interaction terms were created (1) age × gender (2) age × BMI (3) gender × BMI and (4) age × gender × BMI to assess if two or more independent variables simultaneously influence the outcome variable.


Utilizing the EAT-26, the pooled prevalence of at risk for eating disorders among medical students (k = 14, N = 3520) was 10.5% (95% CI 7.3–13.7%). Meta-regression model of age, gender and BMI alone revealed poor predictive capabilities. Meta-regression model of age × gender × BMI interaction revealed statistically significant results with a covariate coefficient of 0.001 and p value of 0.044.


Results from this sample of medical students provided evidence for the role of interactions between risk factors (e.g., age × gender × BMI) in predicting individuals at risk for eating disorders, whereas these variables individually failed to predict eating disorders.

Level of evidence

Level I, systematic review and meta-analysis.


University students High risk Eating disorders Meta-regression Risk factors 


Author contributions

HJ and ZS designed the study. HJ coordinated data search, data entry, data cleaning and performed statistical analyses. HJ and ML wrote the first draft, ZS and MF provided intellectual contributions to strengthening the manuscript and suggested additional data analyses. All authors provided critical revisions of manuscript and approved the final version.


No funds were received towards the study at any stage.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministry of HealthManamaBahrain
  2. 2.College of Medicine and Medical SciencesArabian Gulf UniversityManamaBahrain
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, College of Health Sciences/Sharjah Institute for Medical Research (SIMR)University of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates
  4. 4.Emeritus Professor, Department of PsychologyKenyon CollegeGambierUSA

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