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How the cookie crumbles: a laboratory study of dietary restraint and stress-induced eating behavior Rutledge, Thomas


We examined the relationship between stress, dietary restraint, and the consumption of sweet and salty foods in a female college population. Seventy-seven subjects completed a protocol consisting of distinct baseline, stress-induction, and recovery phases; during which blood pressure, heart rate, and self-reported affect levels were monitored. High and low-stress conditions were created according to the presence or absence of harassment statements delivered while subjects completed a series of challenging cognitive exercises during the stress-induction phase. Finally, the association between food consumption and stress recovery was explored by giving a portion of the high-stress subjects the opportunity to express their distress following the cognitive tasks. Our results supported two main effects: Subjects showing greater levels of cardiovascular arousal ate significantly less of both foods, whereas higher restraint scores were associated with increased consumption. The interaction between restraint and cardiovascular levels did not predict eating behavior, nor did self-reported affect. Lastly, no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that stress recovery would be associated with food consumption. These results support the addition of physiological stress variables in future studies of restraint and stressrelated eating behavior.

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