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Individual differences in food-cue reactivity

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posted on 03.09.2014, 13:40 authored by Amanda Tetley
Previous studies have suggested that brief exposure to the sight and smell of food can elicit a momentary increase in desire to eat that food and can stimulate food intake. This thesis sought to explore individual differences in this 'food-cue reactivity.' Specifically, it aimed to explore associations between reactivity to food cues and i) dietary restraint (Experiments 1 to 6), ii) dietary disinhibition (Experiments 1 to 6), iii) everyday portion-size selection (Experiments 3 to 5), iv) body weight (Experiments 5 and 6), v) sensitivity to reward (BAS trait) (Experiment 6), and vi) Impulsivity (Experiment 6) Using a typical cue reactivity paradigm, female students (Experiment 1 n = 56, Experiment 2 n= 120, Experiment 3 n = 30, Experiment 4 n = 30, Experiment 5, n = 120, Experiment 6 n = 120) from Loughborough University (aged between 18 and 30) were exposed to a food cue and then a series of subjective (appetite ratings), and behavioural (intake and desired portion size), markers of appetite were assessed Notably, two main findings emerged from this research. Firstly, there was little evidence to suggest that food-cue reactivity shared any association with dietary restraint status per se. Rather, sensitivity to reward, impulsivity, and dietary disinhibition, were identified as potentially important determinants of sensitivity to food cues. Secondly, some experiments (Experiments 3 and 5) suggested that foodcue reactivity might be elevated in individuals who are overweight, and who select larger everyday portion sizes. Based on these findings, conclusions are drawn regarding the potential mechanisms which might govern food-cue reactivity, and the possible consequences of greater reactivity for everyday food consumption. In particular, it is concluded that food-cue reactivity might result from a universal sensitivity to stimuli which predict the occurrence of a reward, and from an inability to exercIse sufficient self-control in the presence of tempting environmental cues. In addition to this, it is also suggested that, over time, a greater susceptibility to the effects of food cues might contribute to, greater everyday food intake, and weight gain. To move forward within this research area, studies should continue to investigate the role of food-cue reactivity in overeating, and seek to further identify the mechanisms which promote greater reactivity to these cues.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Amanda Tetley

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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