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Exploring food reward and calorie intake in self-perceived food addicts
- Ruddock, Helen K., Field, Matt, Hardman, Charlotte A.
- Appetite 2017 v.115 pp. 36-44
- eating disorders, energy intake, females, high fat foods, hunger, low fat foods, overeating, risk, willingness to pay
- Previous research indicates that many people perceive themselves to be addicted to food. These ‘self-perceived food addicts’ may demonstrate aberrant eating patterns which put them at greater risk of overeating. However this is yet to be empirically investigated. The current study investigated whether self-perceived food addicts would exhibit higher food reward and calorie intake in a laboratory context relative to self-perceived non-addicts. A secondary aim was to investigate whether self-perceived food addicts would demonstrate increased food liking and/or increased hunger ratings. Finally, we explored whether self-perceived food addicts demonstrate patterns of aberrant eating, beyond that predicted by measures of trait dietary disinhibition and restraint. Female participants (self-perceived food addicts n = 31, non-addicts n = 29) completed measures of hunger, food reward (desire-to-eat, willingness-to-pay ratings, and an operant response task) and liking for high- and low-fat foods. Participants completed all measures when they were hungry, and again when they were satiated after consuming a fixed-lunch meal. Finally, participants were provided with ad-libitum access to high-and low-fat foods. Results indicated that self-perceived food addicts consumed more calories from high-fat food compared to non-addicts, despite the absence of any between-group differences in hunger or overall liking ratings. Self-perceived food addicts also displayed higher desire-to-eat ratings across foods compared to non-addicts, but groups did not differ on other measures of food reward. However, the differences in calorie intake and desire-to-eat between self-perceived food addicts and non-addicts were no longer significant after controlling for dietary disinhibition and restraint. These findings suggest that self-perceived food addicts experience food as more rewarding and have a tendency to overeat. However, this may be attributable to increased dietary disinhibition and decreased restraint rather than reflecting a unique pattern of aberrant eating behaviour.