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Meule, Adrian (2020): The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation. In: Current nutrition reports, Vol. 9, No. 3: pp. 251-257 [PDF, 320kB]


PURPOSE OF REVIEW Dieting is often blamed for causing food cravings. Such diet-induced cravings may be mediated by physiological (e.g., nutritional deprivation) or psychological (e.g., ironic effects of food thought suppression) mechanisms. However, this notion is often based on cross-sectional findings and, thus, the causal role of food deprivation on food cravings is unclear. RECENT FINDINGS Experimental studies suggest that a short-term, selective food deprivation seems to indeed increase cravings for the avoided foods. However, experimental studies also show that food craving can be understood as a conditioned response that, therefore, can also be unlearned. This is supported by intervention studies which indicate that long-term energy restriction results in a reduction of food cravings in overweight adults. Dieting's bad reputation for increasing food cravings is only partially true as the relationship between food restriction and craving is more complex. While short-term, selective food deprivation may indeed increase food cravings, long-term energy restriction seems to decrease food cravings, suggesting that food deprivation can also facilitate extinction of conditioned food craving responses.

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