While eating in response to emotional cues is associated with intake of unhealthy foods, less is known about the extent to which obesity and depression may differentially influence food intake in a buffet-style setting where low- and high-calorie foods are available to choose from.
Using a counterbalanced design, 154 participants were grouped by depression and obesity categories, then asked to read a series of vignettes that were sad (on 1 day) and neutral (on a different day), followed by a buffet to eat until full. Food intake (in grams and calories) and food choice (number of high- or low-calorie food options) were recorded.
Results showed that participants who were obese and depressed had significantly greater energy intake following the sad versus happy vignette, largely due to increased intake of high-calorie foods.
The results corroborate recent theories on emotional eating and extend the ecological validity of such effects in a buffet-style setting.
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