Obesity continues to be a significant problem in the US with 40% of the population meeting criteria for obesity in 2019. Approximately 56.9% of African American (AA) women are considered obese, as compared with 35.5% of white women (Arroyo-Johnson & Mincey, 2016). Overweight, obesity, and related chronic conditions in the AA population are notably higher than in the white population and possibly due to stress (Agyemang, 2013).
The goal of this pilot and feasibility study was to investigate regional brain responses to visual food cues using fMRI, and correlate subsequent dietary behavior in an AA female population. Each fMRI session included a set nonfood blocks (n=7), consisting of common objects such as furniture, toiletries, and electronics, alternating with fattening (n=3) and non-fattening (n=3) food blocks and were counterbalanced. Eight AA females between the ages of 18 and 30 arrived fasting. Upon arrival, they completed the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and 18-item Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ) had their first fMRI scan (pre-meal) immediately followed by a preload. a portion of macaroni and cheese that is designed to represent a normal-sized lunch (35% of estimated daily caloric needs). The second fMRI (post-meal) session immediately followed preload consumption. After the second fMRI, an ad libitum buffet meal was provided to surreptitiously measure food intake and choices.
Activation to fattening (vs. non-fattening) food cues was higher pre-meal compared to post-meal in the thalamus, striatum, cingulate, caudate, and cerebellum, p<0.05. Food consumption was significantly correlated with STAI, State (r=0.78) and TFEQ items 3 (r=0.864), 4 (r=0.878), and 5 (r=-0.824), p<0.05.
This study revealed that there are activation differences when fattening vs non-fatting foods are viewed in AA college age females which are enhanced when in a fasting state. Questionnaires such as the STAI and TFEQ may provide a means to predict food consumption.