Food cravings are a desire for specific foods which, if uncontrolled may lead to excess energy intake and weight gain. However, information on the relation between food cravings, dietary intake, and indices of metabolic health is limited. This study used baseline data from females (n = 229; aged 40.9 ± 0.7 years; BMI 34.7 ± 6.4 kg/m2) who were dependents of active duty and retired military personnel, and enrolled in the Healthy Families Healthy Forces weight loss and maintenance study.
Measures obtained included food cravings using the Food Craving Questionnaire-Trait (which provides a habitual and stable measure of food cravings), dietary composition and eating patterns from three 24-h dietary recalls and the Stanford 7-day Physical Activity Recall, body composition from anthropometric measures, cardiometabolic risk factors from blood measures, and demographic information from questionnaires. Linear, quantile, or logistic regression models were used to examine the association of total food craving scores on dietary intake, and indices of metabolic health.
In individuals reporting plausible energy intake (n = 146; 2210 ± kcals/day) higher food craving scores were associated with a lower diet quality (P < 0.05), higher eating frequency (P = 0.02), longer daily eating interval (P < 0.05), and a lower likelihood of following a time restricted eating pattern (P = 0.02). Food cravings were also positively associated with BMI (P = 0.03) and waist circumference (P = 0.01), but not with measures of cardiometabolic risk (LDL, HDL, total cholesterol:HDL, triglycerides, glucose, glycated hemoglobin, insulin and C-reactive protein concentrations, blood pressure, metabolic syndrome). Our findings of significant associations of food cravings with lower diet quality, poor eating patterns, and unfavorable body composition strongly support efforts of targeting cravings in behavioral programs for weight management.
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