Food preferences and desire to eat in anorexia and bulimia nervosa

S A Stoner, I C Fedoroff, A E Andersen, B J Rolls
International Journal of Eating Disorders 1996, 19 (1): 13-22

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether eating disordered patients and controls differ in visual analog scale (VAS) ratings of liking and desire to eat various foods and whether ratings differ according to caloric or macronutrient content of the foods.

METHOD: Fifty-five female inpatients with eating disorders and 15 controls rated their liking of and desire to eat 50 common foods at admission and discharge using 100-mm VAS.

RESULTS: All patient groups rated their desire to eat high-calorie foods significantly lower than their desire to eat low-calorie foods whereas controls rated their desire to eat high- and low-calorie foods equally. Patients also differed from controls more in ratings of desire to eat than in liking when foods were classified according to macronutrient content. In restricting anorexics (N = 25), ratings of liking and desire to eat for high-fat/low-carbohydrate (CHO) and high-fat/high-CHO foods were not significantly correlated at admission. Disparity in correlations between restrictors, bulimics (N = 18), and controls was attenuated with treatment while anorexics with bulimic features (N = 12) became less like controls from admission to discharge.

DISCUSSION: Differences in the way patients and controls perceive foods should be borne in mind during the treatment process. Furthermore, since patients had not completely normalized by discharge, treatment strategies should emphasize acceptance of foods varying in macronutrient and caloric content, as intake of a varied diet is of key importance in regaining and maintaining good health.

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