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Obes Res. 2002 Nov;10(11):1120-6.

Dietary restraint and stress-induced snacking in youth.

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  • 1Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York 14214, USA.



To determine whether dietary restraint modifies stress-induced eating in youth.


Snacking was measured in boys (9.5 +/- 0.3 years) and girls (9.0 +/- 0.3 years), with and without dietary restraint, across a control day after reading children's magazines and/or coloring, and on a stress day after giving a videotaped speech, with order of conditions counterbalanced. Children were divided into four groups based on dietary restraint and changes in perceived stress: low-restraint/low-reactive (n = 9), low-restraint/high-reactive (n = 13), high-restraint/low-reactive (n = 10), and high-restraint/high-reactive (n = 8). Body composition was estimated by skinfolds.


Energy intake of snack foods was influenced differently by dietary restraint and stress reactivity in the stress and control conditions (p < 0.01). After being stressed, low-restraint/low-reactive children ate fewer snacks and high-restraint/high-reactive children ate more snacks compared with the control condition. After covarying for percentage of body fat, the interactions remained (p < 0.01). Girls ate less than boys (p < 0.001), but sex did not influence eating in control and stress conditions.


Dietary restraint occurs in children and may influence the effect of stress on eating. Interpersonal stress decreases snacking in low dietary restrained youth but increases snacking in high dietary restrained children, perhaps because of stress-induced disinhibition.

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