Switching between foods: A potential behavioral phenotype of hedonic hunger and increased obesity risk in children

Nicholas V. Neuwald, Alaina Pearce, Shana Adise, Barbara J. Rolls, Kathleen Loralee Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Context: Reward-based eating is a trait that increases risk for eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) and obesity. Eating behaviors such as switching more frequently between different foods may increase intake during EAH by delaying the onset of sensory-specific satiation (SSS); however, this question has not been empirically tested. Objectives: 1) Test whether switching between foods mediates the relationship between reward-based eating and EAH intake. 2) Test whether switching between foods during EAH moderates the relationship between reward-based eating and weight status. Methods: Data were analyzed from a study assessing decision-making in children (n = 63 children; 9.4 ± 1.4 years, 77.0 ± 22.4 BMI%tile). Reward-based eating was quantified using the Children's Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. EAH was assessed as the amount of palatable food consumed following ad libitum consumption of a standard meal. Videos of eating behavior were coded for eating time, number of different foods consumed, and food switches. Ordinary least squares regressions were conducted to test hypotheses. Results: Switching was positively associated with EAH intake for both kcal (p < 0.01) and grams (p < 0.01) such that each additional switch was associated with an increased intake of 17.0 kcal or 3.5 gs. Switching mediated the relationship between reward-based eating and EAH (p < 0.01) such that more frequent switching fully accounted for the positive association between reward-based eating and EAH (ps < 0.01). While reward-based eating was also positively associated with weight status (p < 0.01), this association was moderated by food switching (p < 0.01) such that the relationship was stronger for children who switch more frequently (p < 0.01). Conclusions: Frequent switching between foods was positively associated with EAH intake and mediated the relationship between reward-based eating and EAH. Moreover, reward-based eating was more strongly related to weight status in children who switched more frequently. Thus, food switching may contribute to overconsumption and be an important behavioral indicator of increased obesity risk in children. Studies across multiple meals and contexts will help determine if switching is a reliable behavioral phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114312
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Volume270
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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