Objective: This study aimed to assess the effects of exposures to food cues and stress on hunger and food intake and examine whether cue responses differ by weight status.
Methods: In a laboratory-based experimental study, participants (n = 138) were exposed to stress, neutral, and food cues delivered using an individualized script-driven imagery task on three separate days. After each cue exposure, participants ate high- and low-calorie snack foods ad libitum (Food Snack Test). Hunger was measured by visual analog scales.
Results: Food cues elicited significantly greater increases in hunger compared with neutral and stress stimuli. Cue-induced hunger did not differ by weight status. Participants consumed a similar number of total calories across stimuli. In response to food cue provocation, participants with obesity consumed [mean (SE)] 81.0% (4.0%) of calories from high-calorie foods, which was significantly greater than participants with normal weight (63.5% [3.6%]; P = 0.001). After the stress cue, participants with obesity consumed 81.4% (4.0%) of calories from high-calorie foods, which was significantly more than participants with normal weight (70.2% [3.6%]; P = 0.04). Energy intake from high-calorie foods did not differ by weight status after the neutral cue.
Conclusions: Among individuals with obesity, exposure to food and stress cues shifted consumption to high-calorie snack foods within a well-controlled experimental setting.
© 2020 The Obesity Society.