Subjective Experiences of Highly Processed Food Consumption in Individuals With Food Addiction


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Abstract

Highly processed foods (e.g., pizza, chocolate) have been more associated with indicators of food addiction than have minimally processed foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables), although findings have been primarily self-reported. The present study utilized behavioral methods from the addiction literature to assess whether (a) foods differ in their associations with subjective experience indicators of abuse liability and (b) individual differences in subjective experiences and eating behavior emerge using the Yale Food Addiction Scale 2.0 (YFAS 2.0). Women (n = 44) with overweight or obesity, 38.6% with YFAS 2.0 food addiction, rated facets of subjective experience (e.g., craving) during a taste test task and ad libitum consumption period. A hierarchical linear model assessed whether foods were differentially associated with each subjective experience (Level 1) and individual differences by food addiction (Level 2). Associations between subjective experiences and eating behavior were also examined. Highly processed, relative to minimally processed, foods were more associated with indicators of abuse liability, although individuals with food addiction reported decreased enjoyment for and intentions to consume highly processed foods. Subjective experiences were associated with greater consumption of highly processed foods for participants with food addiction. The present work provides further support for the rewarding nature of highly processed foods, evidenced by closer associations with subjective experiences reported for drugs of abuse compared to minimally processed foods. In addition, highly processed food intake was related to elevated subjective experience reports for these foods for those with food addiction, paralleling findings in individuals with a substance-use disorder for the relevant drug.

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