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Decreasing the consumption of foods with sugar increases their Reinforcing Value: a potential barrier for Dietary Behaviour change

20 / 11 / 19

Finding: restricting foods with added sugar increases their reinforcing value and this may make reducing consumption difficult to maintain and present a barrier to complying with current dietary recommendations.

Summary: This study tested the hypothesis that restricting foods high in added sugars may increase their reinforcing value. A group of ideal weight and obese men and women who usually consumed more than 10% of their daily energy from added sugars were placed on a seven-day low-sugar feeding intervention comprising 2.5-4% energy as added sugars and 7.3-8.6% of energy as total sugars. The reinforcing value of foods containing added sugars was measured using progressive ratio schedules before, and on day seven of the intervention.

Results showed the reinforcing value of foods high in added sugar increased after consuming a low sugar diet for one week in both ideal weight and obese participants. The authors conclude more research is needed to determine if reinforcement occurs only in added sugars (or other sugars also), and whether reinforcement returns to baseline after long term reductions in added sugar.

Citation: Flack KD, Ufholz K, Casperson S, Jahns L et. Al. Decreasing consumption of sugar increases their reinforcing value: a potential barrier for Dietary Behaviour Change. J Acad Nutr Diet 2019;119(7):1099-1108