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Emotional responses to food, body dissatisfaction and other eating disorder features in children, adolescents and young adults

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2007.06.004
  • Anxiety
  • Disgust
  • Happiness
  • Food
  • Body Dissatisfaction
  • Eating Concern
  • Normal Development
  • Gender


Abstract We aimed to assess and compare emotional responses to different foods in relationship to eating disorder and associated features, across gender and age groups. We hypothesized that negative emotional responses to images of foods would be higher in (i) those with higher body dissatisfaction and (ii) older females. Five hundred and thirty-six (18% Grade 5, 39% Grade 8 or 9, and 43% Grade 11 or 12) school, and 93 university students participated. Emotive responses to images of foods were assessed with a PowerPoint presentation of 16 differing food and four ‘neutral’ images shown over 30 s intervals. Responses were rated on three 10-cm visual analog scales measuring levels of happiness, fear and disgust. Body image concern was assessed with the nine-item body dissatisfaction subscale of the EDI and eating disorder symptoms with the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire. With increasing age all three emotional responses towards food fell and body dissatisfaction increased. Compared to females, males showed significantly higher levels of a ‘happy’ response to food, and in adult females a fear emotive response correlated positively with eating concern and body dissatisfaction. In men, positive emotive responses to food may be indicative of broader factors that reduce their vulnerability to eating disorders.

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