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The effect of food and weight-related cues on physiological stress measures in women with high versus low levels of cognitive dietary restraint Sanghera, Mandeep


Cognitive dietary restraint (CDR) reflects a perception of constantly monitoring or attempting to restrict food intake as a means to control body weight, rather than eating in response to physiological hunger cues. Higher salivary and urinary cortisol levels have been observed in women with high versus low CDR. This study assessed whether food and weight-related cues differentially activate the physiological stress response in 70 healthy women aged 19-35 with low (0-5; n = 35) or high (13-21; n = 35) scores on the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire Restraint subscale. Participants completed questionnaires on eating attitudes, stress, anxiety, depression and physical activity in the presence of food temptations. Concurrently, blood pressure, heart rate and salivary cortisol measures were obtained every 15 minutes over a 90 minute period. Results showed significant between-group differences in eating attitudes while anthropometric, general perceived stress, anxiety, depression and physical activity variables were similar. Although women with high CDR perceived the protocol as more stressful, physiological measures did not differ by CDR level. Participants also provided 4 saliva samples collected within 1 hour of awakening to assess the awakening cortisol response (ACR). ACR disturbances may be indicative of disrupted hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning, which may be responsible for the higher cortisol levels observed in high restraint women. Morning sampling procedures showed no between-group differences in the ACR. In conclusion, women with high and low CDR had similar physiological stress responses after cue exposure; however, this may have been the result of a weak stressor.

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