Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #382075

Research Project: Dietary and Physical Activity Guidance for Weight Loss and Maintenance

Location: Healthy Body Weight Research

Title: External food cue responsiveness and emotional eating in adolescents: a multimethod study

Author
item SCHNEIDER-WORTHINGTO, NCAMILLE - University Of Alabama At Birmingham
item SMITH, KATHRYN - University Of Southern California
item Roemmich, James
item SALVY, SARAH-JEANNE - Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Submitted to: Appetite
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/29/2021
Publication Date: 10/30/2021
Citation: Schneider-Worthingto, N.R., Smith, K.E., Roemmich, J.N., Salvy, S. 2021. External food cue responsiveness and emotional eating in adolescents: a multimethod study. Appetite. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105789.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105789

Interpretive Summary: Eating in response to external food cues like the sight of foods in the immediate environment and internal emotional experiences such as stress and worry are associated with obesity. External and emotional eating can co-occur, but little is known about how external food cue responsiveness interacts with internal emotional cues to influence eating episodes in adolescents. ARS scientists in collaboration with scientists from academia found that high sensitivity to external food cues and greater proclivity for emotional eating may be likely to coincide in adolescents such that any cue, internal or external, is likely to disrupt sensitivity to internal hunger and satiety signals and, in turn, could increase obesity risk.

Technical Abstract: Eating in response to external food cues (i.e., external eating) and internal emotional experiences (i.e., emotional eating) are associated with obesity. While external and emotional eating have been shown to co-occur, little is known about how external food cue responsiveness may interact with internal emotional cues to influence eating episodes in adolescents. The current study examined how trait-level external food cue responsiveness modulates momentary associations between affective states and eating in adolescents. Participants were drawn from a prior study of siblings (N=78; ages 13-17) who completed an ecological momentary assessment protocol to assess eating episodes and affective states. External food cue responsiveness was determined by comparing energy consumption following presentation of an appetizing food (pizza) on one day and a control activity (reading) on another day. Participants were dichotomized by median split into high versus low external food cue responsiveness groups. Generalized linear mixed models examined positive and negative affective states, cue responsiveness, and their interactions as predictors of the likelihood of eating. The relationship between affective states and likelihood of eating was stronger among adolescents with high versus low external food cue responsiveness. Among adolescents with high cue responsiveness, endorsing negative affect was associated with a lower likelihood of eating, whereas endorsing positive affect was associated with a higher likelihood of eating (within-person effects). Findings suggest that high sensitivity to external food cues and greater proclivity for emotional eating may be likely to coincide such that any cue, internal or external, is likely to disrupt sensitivity to internal hunger and satiety signals and, in turn, could increase obesity risk. Keywords: adolescence; food cue; emotional eating; ecological momentary assessment