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Appetite. 2012 Apr;58(2):508-16. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.12.018. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Orofacial reactivity to the sight and smell of food stimuli. Evidence for anticipatory liking related to food reward cues in overweight children.

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  • 1Developmental Ethology and Cognitive Group, Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l'Alimentation, CNRS (UMR 6265), Université de Bourgogne, 1324 INRA, 9E boulevard Jeanne D'arc, Dijon, France.


Whether food liking may be a risk factor of overconsumption and overweight/obesity remains a controversial issue. So far, most studies used subjective reports to assess consummatory behavior, approaches that might overlook subtle or implicit hedonic changes to sensory properties of foods. Therefore, we used a cue-exposure approach by recording different measures of hedonic processes (orofacial reactivity, self-rated pleasantness, food preference) in 6-11 years old overweight (n=20) and normal-weight (n=20) children. Children were exposed to the smell and sight of high and low-energy density food stimuli and to non-food stimuli during pre- and post-prandial states. Their facial and verbal responses were videotaped and parent's reports of children's eating styles and appetitive traits were collected using the Children's Eating Behavior Questionnaire (CEBQ). Results showed that orofacial reactivity, as an objective measure of anticipatory liking, was more discriminative than self reports, with overweight children displaying more lip sucking than normal-weight children when exposed to high energy food pictures and to food odorants. Orofacial reactivity to food cues was also associated with BMI and children's eating styles (food responsiveness, emotional overeating, and desire to drink). Finally, overweight children classified more frequently non-food odorants as members of the food category during the pre-prandial state than during the post-prandial state, suggesting a possible influence of affective/motivational bias on odor categorization. Our findings suggest that orofacial responsiveness may be relevant to assess the sensitivity to energy-dense food reward cues in overweight children and for signaling, as an index of anticipatory liking, a potential risk for the development of overweight/obesity.

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