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Keywords:

  • food cravings;
  • anorexia nervosa;
  • binge episodes

Abstract

Objective

The objective of the present study was to determine the prevalence and characteristics of food cravings in women with a history of anorexia nervosa. Method: One hundred one control women selected at random and 64 women with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa 10 to 14 years earlier (cases) completed the Diagnostic Interview for Genetic Studies, a food craving questionnaire, the Temperament and Character Inventory and the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire. Results: A similar proportion of cases and controls reported food cravings. A greater proportion of cases reported strong cravings with two or more features of intensity (p = .02). Cravings in the cases were more likely to be characterized by difficulty resisting the craved food (p = .0008), anxiety when the craved food was unavailable (p = .002), and a high frequency of occurrence (p = .001). The cases who craved were significantly more likely to have had lifetime BN (p = .02). Conclusion: A similar prevalence of food craving in cases as in controls suggests that successful control of food intake and/or denial of hunger overrides dietary restriction as a precondition for craving in anorexia nervosa. A dysfunction in the serotonergic system, the provision of intermittent reinforcement by binge episodes, and/or frustration due to unsuccessful attempts at dietary restraint may mediate the association of cravings with the presence of lifetime bulimia. © 1997 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Eat Disord 22:403–409, 1997.