Skip to main content
Log in

Body Composition Highlights Original Article

Preliminary validation and principal components analysis of the Control of Eating Questionnaire (CoEQ) for the experience of food craving

  • Original Article
  • Published:
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Submit manuscript



The Control of Eating Questionnaire (CoEQ) comprises 21-items that are designed to assess the severity and type of food cravings an individual experiences over the previous 7 days. The CoEQ has been used in clinical trials as a multi-dimensional measure of appetite, craving and mood regulation however its underlying component structure has yet to be determined. The current paper has two aims; (1) to examine the psychometric properties, and internal consistency of the CoEQ; and (2) to provide a preliminary examination of the underlying components by exploring their construct and predictive validity.


Data were pooled from four studies in which a total 215 adults (80% women; Age=29.7±10.3; BMI=26.5±5.2) had completed the CoEQ alongside measures of psychometric eating behaviour traits, ad libitum food intake, and body composition. A principal components analysis (PCA) and parallel analysis was conducted to examine the underlying structure of the questionnaire. The resulting subscales were tested for internal consistency (Cronbach’s α=0.66–0.88).


PCA revealed four components that explained 54.5% of the variance. The components were identified as: Craving Control, Positive Mood, Craving for Sweet, and Craving for Savoury. Associations between the underlying CoEQ subscales and measures of body composition and eating behaviour traits confirmed construct validity of the subscales. The associations between the subscales and snack food selection and intake of palatable snack foods supported the CoEQ’s predictive validity.


The CoEQ has good psychometric properties with a clear component structure and acceptable internal consistency. This preliminary validation supports the CoEQ as a measure of the experience of food cravings.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Figure 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Franken IH, Muris P . Individual differences in reward sensitivity are related to food craving and relative body weight in healthy women. Appetite 2005; 45: 198–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Abilés V, Rodríguez-Ruiz S, Abilés J, Mellado C, García A, de la Cruz AP et al. Psychological characteristics of morbidly obese candidates for bariatric surgery. Obesity surgery 2010; 20: 161–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Delahanty LM, Meigs JB, Hayden D, Williamson DA, Nathan DM . Psychological and behavioral correlates of baseline BMI in the diabetes prevention program (DPP). Diabetes Care. 2002; 25: 1992–1998.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Weingarten HP, Elston D . The phenomenology of food cravings. Appetite 1990; 15: 231–246.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Dalton M, Blundell J, Finlayson G . Examination of food reward and energy intake under laboratory and free-living conditions in a trait binge eating subtype of obesity. Frontiers in Psychology 2013; 4: 757.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Hill AJ, Weaver CF, Blundell JE . Food craving, dietary restraint and mood. Appetite 1991; 17: 187–197.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Meule A, Lutz A, Vögele C, Kübler A . Food cravings discriminate differentially between successful and unsuccessful dieters and non-dieters. Validation of the Food Cravings Questionnaires in German. Appetite 2012; 58: 88–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Hill AJ . The psychology of food craving. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2007; 66: 277–285.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Pelchat ML, Schaefer S . Dietary monotony and food cravings in young and elderly adults. Physiology & behavior 2000; 68: 353–359.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Waters A, Hill A, Waller G . Bulimics' responses to food cravings: is binge-eating a product of hunger or emotional state? Behaviour Research and Therapy 2001; 39: 877–886.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Wadden TA, Foreyt JP, Foster GD, Hill JO, Klein S, O'Neil PM et al. Weight Loss With Naltrexone SR/Bupropion SR Combination Therapy as an Adjunct to Behavior Modification: The COR-BMOD Trial. Obesity 2011; 19: 110–120.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Greenway FL, Fujioka K, Plodkowski RA, Mudaliar S, Guttadauria M, Erickson J et al. Effect of naltrexone plus bupropion on weight loss in overweight and obese adults (COR-I): a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial. The Lancet 2010; 376: 595–605.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Apovian CM, Aronne L, Rubino D, Still C, Wyatt H, Burns C et al. A randomized, phase 3 trial of naltrexone SR/bupropion SR on weight and obesity-related risk factors (COR-II). Obesity 2013; 21: 935–943.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Wilcox CS, Oskooilar N, Erickson JS, Billes SK, Katz BB, Tollefson G et al. An open-label study of naltrexone and bupropion combination therapy for smoking cessation in overweight and obese subjects. Addictive Behaviors. 2010; 35: 229–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Gearhardt AN, Corbin WR, Brownell KD . Preliminary validation of the Yale food addiction scale. Appetite 2009; 52: 430–436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Dalton M, Biopsychological Investigation of Hedonic Processes in Individuals Susceptible to Overeating: Role of Liking and Wanting in Trait Binge Eating: University of Leeds; 2013.

  17. Gormally J, Black S, Daston S, Rardin D . The assessment of binge eating severity among obese persons. Addictive Behaviors. 1982; 7: 47–55.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Freitas SR, Lopes CS, Appolinario JC, Coutinho W . The assessment of binge eating disorder in obese women: a comparison of the binge eating scale with the structured clinical interview for the DSM-IV. Eating Behaviors 2006; 7: 282–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Timmerman GM . Binge Eating Scale: Further Assessment of Validity and Reliability1. Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research. 1999; 4: 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Stunkard AJ, Messick S . The three-factor eating questionnaire to measure dietary restraint, disinhibition and hunger. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 1985; 29: 71–83.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Bryant EJ, King NA, Blundell JE . Disinhibition: its effects on appetite and weight regulation. Obesity Reviews. 2008; 9: 409–419.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Chambers L, Yeomans MR . Individual differences in satiety response to carbohydrate and fat. Predictions from the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ). Appetite 2011; 56: 316–323.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Ouwens MA, van Strien T . van der Staak CPF. Tendency toward overeating and restraint as predictors of food consumption. Appetite 2003; 40: 291–298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Carr K, Lin H, Fletcher KD, Epstein LH . Food reinforcement, dietary disinhibition and weight gain in nonobese adults. Obesity 2013; 22: 254–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Finlayson G, Cecil J, Higgs S, Hill AJ, Hetherington M . Susceptibility to weight gain. Eating behaviour traits and physical activity as predictors of weight gain during the first year of university. Appetite 2012; 58: 1091–1098.

  26. Hayton JC, Allen DG, Scarpello V . Factor retention decisions in exploratory factor analysis: A tutorial on parallel analysis. Organizational research methods 2004; 7: 191–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Greeno CG, Wing RR, Shiffman S . Binge antecedents in obese women with and without binge eating disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2000; 68: 95–102.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Wegner KE, Smyth JM, Crosby RD, Wittrock D, Wonderlich SA, Mitchell JE . An evaluation of the relationship between mood and binge eating in the natural environment using ecological momentary assessment. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2002; 32: 352–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Goldschmidt AB, Tanofsky-Kraff M, Wilfley DE . A laboratory-based study of mood and binge eating behavior in overweight children. Eating Behaviors 2011; 12: 37–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Dalton M, Blundell J, Finlayson G . Effect of BMI and Binge Eating on Food Reward and Energy Intake: Further Evidence for a Binge Eating Subtype of Obesity. Obesity Facts 2013; 6: 348–359.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Blundell JE, Caudwell P, Gibbons C, Hopkins M, Naslund E, King NA et al. Body composition and appetite: fat-free mass (but not fat mass or BMI) is positively associated with self-determined meal size and daily energy intake in humans. British Journal of Nutrition. 2012; 107: 445–449.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. Blundell JE, Caudwell P, Gibbons C, Hopkins M, Naslund E, King N et al. Role of resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure in hunger and appetite control: a new formulation. Disease models & mechanisms 2012; 5: 608–613.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. O’Neill BV, Bullmore ET, Miller S, McHugh S, Simons D, Dodds CM et al. The relationship between fat mass, eating behaviour and obesity-related psychological traits in overweight and obese individuals. Appetite 2012; 59: 656–661.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council grant: BB/G530141/1. The authors’ responsibilities were as follows—MD, GF and JB designed the studies; MD collected the data; MD analysed the data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript; all authors interpreted the data and revised the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to M Dalton.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dalton, M., Finlayson, G., Hill, A. et al. Preliminary validation and principal components analysis of the Control of Eating Questionnaire (CoEQ) for the experience of food craving. Eur J Clin Nutr 69, 1313–1317 (2015).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

  • Springer Nature Limited

This article is cited by