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Obes Rev. 2018 Dec;19(12):1642-1658. doi: 10.1111/obr.12754. Epub 2018 Aug 24.

Changes in food reward during weight management interventions - a systematic review.

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Appetite Control Energy Balance Research Group, School of Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.



Does food reward increase or decrease during weight management attempts? Excessive food intake is the main behavioural determinant of obesity; therefore, a better understanding of food reward and its relationship with food intake and weight outcomes could contribute to more effective weight management solutions.


This systematic review assessed the role of changes in food reward (directly or indirectly measured) during weight management interventions. Four databases were searched for articles published until April 2018 involving weight management interventions (all types and designs) in healthy adults with overweight or obesity.


Of 239 full-text articles assessed, 17 longitudinal studies were included. Twelve studies reported a significant change in food reward over time. When compared with control interventions, dietary, pharmacological, behavioural and cognitive interventions were effective in decreasing liking and/or wanting for high-energy food using a range of methodologies to assess food reward. Three studies reported that decreased food reward was associated with improved weight management outcomes.


Food reward appears to decrease rather than increase during weight management interventions. Future studies specifically targeting the hedonic aspects of food intake (liking/wanting) are needed to gain a better understanding of how to uncouple the obesogenic relationship between food reward and overeating.


food reward; liking; wanting; weight management

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