Hedonic hunger: a new dimension of appetite?

Physiol Behav. 2007 Jul 24;91(4):432-9. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.04.006. Epub 2007 Apr 12.


An increasing proportion of human food consumption appears to be driven by pleasure, not just by the need for calories. In addition to its effects on body mass and health, the food environment in affluent societies may be creating an appetitive counterpart to the psychological effects of other hedonically-driven activities such as drug use and compulsive gambling. This phenomenon is referred to here as "hedonic hunger." Animal literature is reviewed indicating that brain-based homeostatic and hedonic eating motives overlap but are nonetheless dissociable. In humans there is evidence that obese individuals prefer and consume high palatability foods more than those of normal weight. Among normal weight individuals it has long been assumed that the appetitive anomalies associated with restrained eating are due to diet-induced challenges to the homeostatic system, but we review evidence suggesting that they more likely stem from hedonic hunger (i.e., eating less than wanted rather than less than needed). Finally, a recently-developed measure (the Power of Food Scale; PFS) of individual differences in appetitive responsiveness to rewarding properties of the food environment is described. Preliminary evidence indicates that the PFS is reliable and valid and is related to clinically-relevant variables such as food cravings and binge eating. This measure, combined with environmental manipulations of food availability and palatability, may constitute a useful approach to studying hedonic hunger.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology*
  • Motivation*
  • Philosophy*