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Behavior, Psychology and Sociology

No evidence for an association between obesity and milkshake liking

Subjects

Abstract

Background

Prevailing models of obesity posit that hedonic signals override homeostatic mechanisms to promote overeating in today’s food environment. What researchers mean by “hedonic” varies considerably, but most frequently refers to an aggregate of appetitive events including incentive salience, motivation, reinforcement, and perceived pleasantness. Here we define hedonic as orosensory pleasure experienced during eating and set out to test whether there is a relationship between adiposity and the perceived pleasure of a palatable and energy-dense milkshake.

Methods

The perceived liking, wanting, and intensity of two palatable and energy-dense milkshakes were assessed using the Labeled Hedonic Scale (1), visual analog scale (VAS), and Generalized Labeled Magnitude Scale (2) in 110 individuals ranging in body mass index (BMI) from 19.3 to 52.1 kg/m2. Waist circumference, waist–hip ratio, and percent body fat were also measured. Importantly, unlike the majority of prior studies, we attempted to standardize internal state by instructing participants to arrive to the laboratory neither hungry nor full and at least 1-h fasted. Data were analyzed with general linear and linear mixed effects models (GLMs). Hunger ratings were also examined prior to hedonic measurement and included as covariates in our analyses.

Results

We identified a significant association between ratings of hunger and milkshake liking and wanting. By contrast, we found no evidence for a relationship between any measure of adiposity and ratings of milkshake liking, wanting, or intensity.

Conclusions

We conclude that adiposity is not associated with the pleasure experienced during consumption of our energy-dense and palatable milkshakes. Our results provide further evidence against the hypothesis that heightened hedonic signals drive weight gain.

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Fig. 1: Perceptual ratings of milkshake as a function of adiposity.
Fig. 2: Hunger is related to liking and wanting but not intensity or adiposity.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health R01 grants R01 CA180080 and R01 DK085579 (DMS); and the Yale Medical School Fellowship (MCF).

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Correspondence to Dana M. Small.

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Wall, K.M., Farruggia, M.C., Perszyk, E.E. et al. No evidence for an association between obesity and milkshake liking. Int J Obes 44, 1668–1677 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-0583-x

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