Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback Reduces Food Cravings in High Food Cravers
Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback has been reported to increase HRV while decreasing symptoms in patients with mental disorders. In addition, associations between low HRV and lowered self-regulation were found in non-clinical samples, e.g., in individuals with strong chocolate cravings or unsuccessful dieting. The current study aimed at decreasing food cravings with HRV-biofeedback in individuals frequently experiencing such cravings. Participants (N = 56) with strong or low food cravings associated with a lack of control over eating were selected from the local community. Half of the participants with strong cravings (craving-biofeedback; n = 14) performed 12 sessions of HRV-biofeedback while the other half (craving-control; n = 14) and a group with low cravings (non-craving-control; n = 28) received no intervention. Subjective food cravings related to a lack of control over eating decreased from pre- to post-measurement in the craving-biofeedback group, but remained constant in the control groups. Moreover, only the craving-biofeedback group showed a decrease in eating and weight concerns. Although HRV-biofeedback was successful in reducing food cravings, this change was not accompanied by an increase in HRV. Instead, HRV decreased in the craving-control group. This study provides preliminary evidence that HRV-biofeedback could be beneficial for attenuating dysfunctional eating behavior although specific mechanisms remain to be elucidated.