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Health Psychol. 2016 Mar;35(3):238-244. doi: 10.1037/hea0000291. Epub 2015 Dec 21.

Hedonic hunger prospectively predicts onset and maintenance of loss of control eating among college women.

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Department of Psychology, Drexel University.
Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
Oregon Research Institute.



The subjective feeling of loss of control (LOC) over eating is common among eating-disordered individuals and has predicted weight gain in past research. Restrained eating and negative affect are risk factors for binge eating (which involves LOC), but intense feelings of pleasure derived from palatable foods might also predict the emergence or intensification of LOC eating. The Power of Food Scale (PFS) assesses preoccupation with the pleasure derived from palatable food.


The current sample (n = 294) comprised female college freshmen at risk for weight gain. LOC was assessed using an abbreviated version of the Eating Disorders Examination interview. LOC was assessed at baseline and at 6-week and 12- and 24-month follow-ups.


Among those exhibiting LOC eating at baseline (and controlling for baseline depression, restrained eating, and body image dissatisfaction), those scoring higher on the PFS at baseline showed a smaller reduction in LOC frequency over time relative to those scoring lower. Using the same covariates, the PFS predicted the first emergence of LOC over 2 years among those showing no LOC at baseline.


These results suggest that powerful hedonic attraction to palatable foods may represent a risk factor for the maintenance of LOC in those initially experiencing it and the emergence of LOC eating in those who are not. An enhanced ability to identify individuals at increased risk of developing or maintaining LOC eating could be useful in prevention programs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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