Food Cravings: A Central Construct in Food Intake Behavior, Weight Loss, and the Neurobiology of Appetitive Behavior



Food cravings are discrete phenomena involving a strong desire to consume a specific food that is hard to resist. Food cravings are associated with hunger, but food cravings are only alleviated by consumption of a specific type of food, while hunger can be alleviated by eating any number of foods. Food cravings are common and are associated with food intake and body mass, and neuroimaging studies indicate that exposure to imagined or actual craved foods increases activation in brain regions subserving reward, motivation, and memory. A number of self-report inventories with good psychometric properties are available that measure food cravings, including inventories to measure cravings for specific types of foods, such as chocolate and carbohydrates. Although food cravings were once hypothesized to result from food restriction or nutrient deficiencies, there is little empirical support for this etiological model. For example, food restriction during dieting and weight loss decreases food cravings, and more restrictive diets are associated with larger craving decreases. An alternative etiological model with empirical support involves conditioning, where food cravings result from pairing food intake with stimuli such as hunger, emotional states, or environmental stimuli. Randomized controlled trials are warranted to evaluate the efficacy of interventions to manage food cravings, and further research is needed to evaluate changes in food cravings in response to: (1) short- and long-term restriction of specific foods, with and without energy restriction/weight loss and (2) restriction of specific types of foods during diets that vary in intensity/weight loss. Results from such studies will improve our understanding of the etiology of food cravings and provide information on effective methods to manage food cravings.


Food Restriction Binge Eating Energy Deficit Dietary Restraint Ecological Momentary Assessment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Ecological momentary assessment


Food Chocolate Craving Questionnaire – Trait


Food Craving Inventory


Food Craving Inventory for Japanese


Food Craving Questionnaire – State


Food Craving Questionnaire – Trait


Orientation to Chocolate Questionnaire


Questionnaire on Craving for Sweet or Rich Foods



Corby K. Martin, Ph.D. is supported by National Institutes of Health Grant 1 K23 DK068052.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ingestive Behavior LaboratoryPennington Biomedical Research CenterBaton RougeUSA

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