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Impact of Dietary Protein and Gender on Food Reinforcement

Shanon L. Casperson, James N. Roemmich
Nutrients 2017 v.9 no.9 pp. -
adults, body mass index, cross-over studies, dietary protein, eating habits, food reinforcement, gender, lunch, men, snack foods, snacks, women
Recent evidence suggests that increasing dietary protein may alter reward-driven eating behavior. However, the link between protein and food reinforcement is not known. We sought to determine the extent to which increasing dietary protein alters food reinforcement in healthy adults. In a randomized crossover study, 11 women (age = 25 ± 7 years; Body Mass Index (BMI) = 21 ± 2 kg/m2) and 10 men (age = 22 ± 2 years; BMI = 24 ± 2 kg/m2) consumed normal (15%) and high (30%) protein meals. Food reinforcement was assessed using a computer-based choice task (operant responding with concurrent log<inf>2</inf>(x) reinforcement schedules) 4 h after lunch. We found that food reinforcement was greater in men than women (p < 0.05) and greater for sweet than savory snack foods (p < 0.02). Gender interacted with dietary protein level (p = 0.03) and snack food type (p < 0.0001). Specifically, we found that increasing dietary protein decreased the reinforcing value of savory foods in women. The reinforcing value for sweet foods did not interact with dietary protein or gender. These results demonstrate the differential effects of dietary protein on the reinforcing value for energy-dense, highly palatable snack foods.