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J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Jan;116(1):61-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.05.003. Epub 2015 Jun 19.

Impulsivity and Fast-Food Consumption: A Cross-Sectional Study among Working Adults.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Little is known about the decision-making process of adults who choose to eat at fast-food restaurants. Impulsivity is the concept that individuals value immediate rewards and disregard future costs.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine the association between impulsivity and consumption of fast food among employed adults and to explore their reasons for eating fast food.

DESIGN:

A cross-sectional, online survey was conducted; participants were recruited using a mass electronic mailing.

PARTICIPANTS/SETTING:

Four hundred seventy-eight adults employed in a university setting completed the survey.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

The association between frequency of fast-food consumption and impulsivity was assessed. Impulsivity is assessed by the area under the delay discounting curve (AUC). The AUC is estimated by using a binary choice delay discounting task incorporating hypothetical monetary rewards. Greater AUC reflects lower impulsivity.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED:

Analysis of variance, Student's t tests, and Pearson correlation coefficients were used to measure unadjusted associations among demographic variables, fast-food consumption, and AUC. Linear regression was used to assess whether AUC was a significant predictor of having consumed fast food in the past 7 days, controlling for age, total household income, and education.

RESULTS:

The majority (67%) of the participants reported eating one or more meals from a fast-food restaurant or pizza place in the past 7 days. The mean number of meals was 2.8±2.5 per week among those who reported eating at a fast-food restaurant or pizza place. Both fast-food consumption and body mass index (BMI) were correlated with greater impulsivity. Controlling for age, total household income, and education level, fast-food consumption was negatively related to AUC (P=0.017). The most commonly reported reasons for consuming fast food were convenience and to socialize.

CONCLUSIONS:

These findings indicate that greater impulsivity was associated with greater fast-food consumption. Successful efforts to encourage healthful dietary behaviors might emphasize methods to overcome impulsivity, such as reward substitution and precommitment.

KEYWORDS:

Convenience; Delay discounting; Dietary behaviors; Fast food; Impulsivity

PMID:
26095434
DOI:
10.1016/j.jand.2015.05.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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