, Volume 197, Issue 4, pp 637–647 | Cite as

Abuse potential of carbohydrates for overweight carbohydrate cravers

  • Bonnie SpringEmail author
  • Kristin Schneider
  • Malaina Smith
  • Darla Kendzor
  • Bradley Appelhans
  • Donald Hedeker
  • Sherry Pagoto



The long-rejected construct of food addiction is undergoing re-examination.


To evaluate whether a novel carbohydrate food shows abuse potential for rigorously defined carbohydrate cravers, as evidenced by selective self-administration and mood enhancement during double-blind discrimination testing.

Materials and methods

Discrete trials choice testing was performed with 61 overweight (BMI m = 27.64, SD = 2.59) women (ages 18–45; 19.70% African American) whose diet records showed >4 weekly afternoon/evening emotional-eating episodes confined to snacks with carbohydrate to protein ratio of >6:1. After being induced into a sad mood, participants were exposed, double-blind and in counterbalanced order, to taste-matched carbohydrate and protein beverages. They were asked to choose and self-administer the drink that made them feel better.


Women overwhelmingly chose the carbohydrate beverage, even though blinded. Mixed-effects regression modeling, controlling for beverage order, revealed greater liking and greater reduction in dysphoria after administration of the carbohydrate beverage compared to the protein beverage but no differential effect on vigor.


For women who crave them, carbohydrates appear to display abuse potential, plausibly contributing to overconsumption and overweight.


Food addiction Addictive behavior Substance-related disorder Carbohydrate craving Food preferences Appetite Eating Eating disorder Women's health Abuse potential Abuse liability 



Supported by NIH grant HL63307 to Dr. Spring and by NIH grants P30 CA060553 and R25 CA100600. We express appreciation to Jillon Vander Wal and Andrea Kozak for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bonnie Spring
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Kristin Schneider
    • 1
  • Malaina Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  • Darla Kendzor
    • 1
  • Bradley Appelhans
    • 2
  • Donald Hedeker
    • 1
  • Sherry Pagoto
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Illinois—ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Preventive MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Hines HospitalVA Medical CenterHinesUSA

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