Location: Healthy Body Weight ResearchTitle: Decreasing the consumption of foods with added sugars increases their reinforcing value: A potential barrier for dietary behavior change
Submitted to: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/22/2018
Publication Date: 4/6/2019
Citation: Flack, K.D., Casperson, S.L., Jahns, L.A., Roemmich, J.N. 2019. Decreasing the consumption of foods with added sugars increases their reinforcing value: A potential barrier for dietary behavior change. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2018.12.016.
Interpretive Summary: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing added sugar (AS) intake to less than 10% of daily calories as a means to improve diet quality, although many Americans far exceed this amount. The reinforcing or motivating value of food influences eating behaviors, where those who find food highly reinforcing eat more and tend to be overweight or obese. Foods high in added sugars like desserts, candy, bakery products are highly reinforcing, and therefore more difficult to consume in moderation. One way to improve diet quality is to reduce the intake of these foods. Restricting intake of food; however, increases the reinforcing value of food and leads to eating more than usual. This study determined whether restriction of foods high in added sugars would result in an increase in their reinforcing value. If so, this would demonstrate a barrier that many face when attempting to make the necessary dietary changes to meet dietary recommendations. Eating a low added sugar diet for one week caused the reinforcing value of high added sugar foods to increase in both obese and non-overweight participants. This increase in the reinforcing value of foods high in added sugar may explain, in part, the difficulty many face in reducing intake of foods with added sugars.
Technical Abstract: Background: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans have recommended reducing added sugar (AS) intake since its inception in 1980. Despite the long-term emphasis, this behavioral change has been hard to instill amongst most of the population. The reinforcing value of food influences eating behaviors, and foods high in AS are highly reinforcing. Restricting intake of foods high in AS may increase their reinforcing value such that reducing consumption may be difficult to maintain. If so, this would present a mechanistic barrier to making the necessary dietary changes to meet DGA recommendations. Purpose: To determine whether the relative reinforcing value of foods high in AS is modified when reducing intake of foods high in AS. Methods: Obese (n=9) and non-overweight (n= 23) men and woman who habitually consumed over 10% of their calories from AS completed the study. Reinforcing value of foods high in AS was measured before and on day 7 of a week-long controlled feeding intervention where AS comprised 1-3% of daily calories. Results: The reinforcing value of high AS foods increased (P<0.01) after consuming a low-sugar diet for one week in both obese and non-overweight participants. Conclusion: Adhering to a low AS diet for one week increases the reinforcing value of high AS food. This may explain, in part, the difficulty in reducing AS in order to meet DGA recommendations.