gms | German Medical Science

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

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e.V.

03.03. - 05.03.2016, Essen

Neural, Cognitive, and Behavioral Correlates of Chocolate Craving

Meeting Abstract

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Deutsche Gesellschaft für Essstörungen e.V. (DGESS). 5. Wissenschaftlicher Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Essstörungen. Essen, 03.-05.03.2016. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2016. Doc16dgess038

doi: 10.3205/16dgess038, urn:nbn:de:0183-16dgess0383

Veröffentlicht: 18. Februar 2016

© 2016 Richard et al.
Dieser Artikel ist ein Open-Access-Artikel und steht unter den Lizenzbedingungen der Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (Namensnennung). Lizenz-Angaben siehe



Background: Chocolate’s sensory characteristics, macronutrient composition, and psychoactive ingredients make it a hedonically ideal substance and, thus, the most frequently craved food in Western societies. However, it is also the food for which people report having the most difficulties when it comes to controlling its consumption. This may be due to the fact that trying to restrict chocolate intake may increase its salience, thereby facilitating intrusive thoughts and craving experiences.

Methods: Chocolate cravers (n = 20, 75% female) and non-chocolate cravers (n = 20, 75% female) performed an fMRI task during which they were instructed to either suppress thoughts about chocolate (or a neutral object) or to freely think about these stimuli. After this pre-testing, participants were instructed to refrain from eating chocolate for a 2-week deprivation period or to maintain regular chocolate consumption. Implicit preference for chocolate was measured with a Single Category Implicit Association Test and craving was measured with the chocolate version of the Food Cravings Questionnaire-State.

Results: Chocolate cravers reported more chocolate-related thoughts than non-cravers in the chocolate condition, while groups did not differ in the amount of self-reported thoughts in the object condition. They also exhibited higher activity in the striatum than non-cravers in the chocolate vs. object condition. Striatal activity was unaffected by the suppression instruction. Chocolate cravers showed higher implicit chocolate preference regardless of deprivation period. Higher implicit chocolate preference was associated with higher cue-induced striatal activity only in chocolate cravers, but not in non-cravers. During the deprivation period, chocolate craving did not change in non-cravers while it increased in high cravers.

Conclusions: Chocolate cravers differed from non-cravers in cue-elicited chocolate thoughts, reward-related brain activity, implicit chocolate preference, and associations between the latter two. Chocolate thought suppression and deprivation did not affect these measures. However, a short-term, hedonic deprivation increased momentary chocolate craving in chocolate cravers. Thus, while chocolate cravers exhibit stronger neural, cognitive, and behavioral responses towards chocolate than non-cravers, restricting chocolate intake even intensifies craving for chocolate, which most likely leads to indulgence.