Excessive energy intake that contributes to overweight and obesity is arguably driven by pleasure associated with the rewarding properties of energy-dense palatable foods. It is important to address influences of external food cues in food-abundant societies where people make over 200 food related decisions each day. This study experimentally examines protective effects of a mindful attention induction on appetitive measures, state craving and food intake following exposure to energy-dense foods.
Forty females were randomly allocated to a standard food-cue exposure condition in which attention is brought to the hedonic properties of food or food-cue exposure following a mindful attention induction. Appetitive reactions were measured pre, post and 10 min after post-cue exposure, after which a plate of cookies was used as a surreptitious means of measuring food intake.
Self-reported hunger remained unchanged and fullness significantly increased for the mindful attention group post-cue exposure whereas hunger significantly increased for the standard attention group and fullness remained unchanged. There was no significant between-group difference in state craving post-cue exposure and 10 min later. Significantly more cookies were eaten by the standard attention group 10 min post-cue exposure although no significant between-group differences in appetitive and craving measures were reported at that time.
Our results point to a promising brief intervention strategy and highlights the importance of distinguishing mindful attention from attention. Results also demonstrate that mindful attention can influence food intake even when craving and hunger are experienced.