Eating Habits and Food Additive Intakes Are Associated with Emotional States Based on EEG and HRV in Healthy Korean Children and Adolescents

J Am Coll Nutr. 2017 Jul;36(5):335-341. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2017.1281774. Epub 2017 May 26.


Purpose: Recent study suggests that psychological issues and eating habits are closely related. In this study, we aimed to find the association between eating habits and intakes of artificial sweeteners with emotional states of schoolchildren using quantitatively analyzing objective biosignals.

Methods: The study was conducted at the National Standard Reference Data Center for Korean EEG as a cross-sectional study. Three hundred eighteen healthy children who have not been diagnosed with neurologic or psychiatric disorders were evaluated (168 girls and 150 boys; mean age of 11.8 ± 3.6 years). Analysis indicators were a dietary intake checklist for children's nutrition-related behavior score (NBS), consisting of 19 items; food frequency questionnaires (FFQs), consisting of 76 items; the Child Depression Inventory (CDI); State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-State (STAI-S); State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-Trait (STAI-T); electroencephalograph (EEG); and heart rate variability (HRV).

Results: Higher scores on the CDI, STAI-S, and STAI-T indicate negative emotions, and these scores were significantly decreased from the first to the fourth quartiles. The HRV results showed that the standard deviation of all normal-to-normal (SDNN) intervals was significantly higher in the first quartile than in the fourth quartile (p < 0.05). The intakes of artificial sweeteners and processed foods such as hamburgers correlate with higher theta/beta ratios, and intakes of natural foods such as legumes and fruits correlate with lower theta/beta ratios (p < 0.05).

Conclusions and implications: From this result we confirmed a link between overall nutritional behavior, food additive intakes, and emotion in apparently healthy children and adolescents.

Keywords: Nutrition-related behavior score (NBS); anxiety; electroencephalography (EEG); food additives; heart rate variability (HRV).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / chemically induced
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Depression / chemically induced
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Eating*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Additives / administration & dosage*
  • Food Additives / adverse effects*
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Republic of Korea


  • Food Additives