The hedonic value of food has been conceptualised as a combination of how much a food is liked and how much a food is wanted in a given moment. These psychobiological constructs help to explain choices about which foods to eat and have a primary role in how much energy is consumed. Moreover the processes of liking and wanting for food are not always equivalent and may differ by degree according to the food in question, state of satiety, body composition and individual differences in dispositional eating behaviour traits. Here we report progress on the behavioural quantification of food hedonics in the laboratory setting through assessment of 'explicit liking' and 'implicit wanting' according to perceived fat content and/or sweet taste of common foods. We review recent experimental evidence examining the role of liking and wanting as features of 'trait binge eating' (assessed using the Binge Eating Scale)-a non-clinical psychometric marker for susceptibility to overeating and increased risk of weight gain. Our data show that trait binge eating can be viewed as an ecologically valid, behavioural phenotype of obesity, characterised by reliable psychological and anthropometric characteristics. Enhanced implicit wanting for sweet foods with high fat content is a psychobiological feature of susceptibility to overeating and offers a potential target for improving appetite control.
- Binge eating
- Sweet-fat food