gms | German Medical Science

3. Wissenschaftlicher Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e. V. (DGESS)

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e. V.

23.02. - 25.02.2012, Hannover

Biofeedback of Heart Rate Variability Reduces Food Cravings in High Food Cravers

Meeting Abstract

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  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Adrian Meule - Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
  • Claus Vögele - Université du Luxembourg, Walferdange, Luxembourg
  • Andrea Kübler - Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e.V. (DGESS). 3. Wissenschaftlicher Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Essstörungen. Hannover, 23.-25.02.2012. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2012. Doc12dgess028

doi: 10.3205/12dgess028, urn:nbn:de:0183-12dgess0285

Published: February 8, 2012

© 2012 Meule et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background: Biofeedback of heart rate variability (HRV) has been found to increase HRV while decreasing psychopathological symptoms in patients with mental disorders related to low HRV [1]. In addition, individuals with strong substance or chocolate cravings have been found to have lower HRV compared to individuals without such cravings [2]. The current study aimed at decreasing food cravings using HRV-biofeedback in subjects that experience such cravings frequently and intensely.

Material/Methods: Participants (N = 56) were selected from the local community using online screening. One group of participants with strong food cravings (craving-intervention; n = 14) performed 12 sessions of HRV-biofeedback while another group (craving-control; n = 14) and a group with low food craving (non-craving control; n = 28) received no intervention.

Results: Subjective food cravings related to a lack of control over eating did not change between online screening and the first measurement. However, they decreased from pre- to post measurement in the craving-intervention group only, and remained constant in the control groups. Moreover, only the craving-intervention group showed a decrease in eating and weight concerns. From pre- to post measurement, HRV decreased in the craving-control group and did not change in the craving-intervention or the non-craving control group.

Discussion: Although HRV-biofeedback was successful in reducing food cravings, this change was not accompanied by an increase in HRV. This study provides preliminary evidence that HRV-biofeedback could be beneficial for attenuating dysfunctional eating behavior. However, the specific mechanisms have to be further explored.


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