Psychobiology of Food Choice and Eating Behaviour - Food reward and hedonic eating

9 important questions on Psychobiology of Food Choice and Eating Behaviour - Food reward and hedonic eating

1. Thrifty genes hypothesis

Homeostatic feedback loop of hunger/energy

'thrifty genes' and ancestral hunter-gatherers:
- individuals who ate only when experiencing a short-term intrameal deficit in energy would not have been prepared for longer periods of deprivation.
- modern man is equipped with both chemosensory, GI systems and brain circuitry to favour the intake of nutritionally high-dense foods, where upward deflections are not compensated for. The connective loop is getting weaker. Stop system is weak developed, go system is over developed.

3. Hunger and palatability paradox
What is the nature of palatability? -> 2 groups of theories

  1. Palatability reflects need-state for the nutrient predicted by sensory properties of the ingestant
    1. e.g., liking for sweet tastes when hungry is expression of energetic need
  2. Palatability is related to reward processes (wanting+liking) that (in part) operate independent from need-state
    1. e.g., liking for sweet tastes is expression of (acquired) oro-sensory reward independent from energetic need (learning)

What are food rewards?

People engage in behaviours that are rewarding (beneficial)
A reward is any stimulus which generates positive affective experiences
  • food reward can be physiological, cognitive, emotional and/or social
    • e.g., sweet taste, feeling comfortably full or feeling relaxed
These positive experiences reinforce the behaviour so that the behaviour is repeated, i.e., becomes conditioned
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How do changes in reward come about?


How to measure food liking?

  • VAS-scale: how much do you like or dislike product?
  • facial expressions
  • taste-reactivity test

How to measure food wanting?

  • VAS-scale: how much do you want to eat this product right now? BUT people don't know the difference between liking and wanting and fill in the same answer as liking
  • behavioural measures: approach, effort, willingness to work

What is reward sensitivity?

Food = primary reinforcer but...
individual differences in:
- relative reinforcing value of food (RRVfood)
>> people with higher RRVfood consume more calories when food is freely available than those with low RRVfood

What is delayed reward discounting (DRD)?

DRD = behavioural index of impulsive behaviour
>> individuals ability to delay gratification (marshmellow experiment)

How to make a delayed reward gratifying?

Role of reward in establishing and maintaining repeated healthy food choice behaviour
  1. Learned food-reward associations
  2. Stability of food-reward over repeat consumption
  3. Cueing of positive rewarding experiences of food products

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