Background

Food responsiveness (FR), defined as the response to external appetitive cues, is posited to contribute to growing rates of obesity. Research shows FR is related to increased cephalic phase responses and neutral activation of motivation and reward circuitry (Ferriday & Brunstrom, 2011; Bruce et al., 2010). A variety of measures have been developed to assess this construct, ranging from self-report or parent-report surveys to in vivo eating tasks. No research to date has compared these measures to assess their convergence. It is important to evaluate this in children with overweight/obesity (OW/OB), as reliable and valid assessments of FR are essential to better understand this potentially critical appetitive mechanism, and its role in behavioral interventions.

Methods

Thus, the present study examined the relationship between five measures of FR in a sample of 140 children with OW/OB (age=10.7, BMI%ile=96.5; 68% female; 51% white; 25% Hispanic). Assessments included: eating in the absence of hunger ad libitum eating paradigm (EAH), physiological food cue exposure (root mean square of successive differences; RMSSD), parent reported food responsiveness subscale from the Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire (CEBQ-FR), child self-reported Power of Food total score (PFS-c), and a modified child self-reported trait Food Cravings Questionnaire total score (FCQ-Total).

Results

Spearman correlations revealed little convergence between assessments, with significant associations between EAH and CEBQ-FR (ρ=0.19, p=0.05), PFS-Total and FCQ-Total (ρ=0.87, p<0.001), and RMSSD with both PFS-Total (ρ=-0.32, p=0.002) and FCQ-Total (ρ=-0.34, p<0.001). No other associations were significant.

Conclusions

The lack of concordance between measures assessing a similar concept is of concern. Future studies should examine these relationships in children and adolescents of all weight statuses and evaluate how to best update these measures of FR in an effort to reach greater convergence.