Background: Studies examining the association between hedonic hunger, that is, having frequent thoughts about food in the absence of an energy deficit, and obesity in youth show mixed results. This may be due to the confounding effect of binge eating, which has been associated with both hedonic hunger and obesity. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which hedonic hunger is associated with obesity independent of binge eating in youth. Methods: Data for this cross-sectional study were collected from youth enrolled in a larger study of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Linear regression models were used to assess the association between hedonic hunger measured by Power of Food Scale (PFS) and binge eating measured by Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire, on percent of the 95th BMI percentile (BMIp95). Results: Among 269 participants (mean age 12.8 years), 16.4% endorsed binge eating. PFS was positively associated with BMIp95 with a difference in percent of BMIp95 of 5.9% [95% confidence interval (1.5-10.3), p  = 0.009]. However, when binge eating was added to the model, the relationship between PFS and BMIp95 was no longer significant. Conclusion: Hedonic hunger, above and beyond binge eating, may not be associated with BMI. Future research should examine whether screening for and targeting binge eating rather than hedonic hunger in weight management care may have more impact on obesity outcomes. Clinical Trial Registration number: NCT01508598.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-262
Number of pages6
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Mary Ann Liebert Inc.. All rights reserved.


  • binge eating
  • childhood
  • hedonic hunger
  • loss of control eating
  • obesity
  • reward-based eating


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