Abuse potential of carbohydrates for overweight carbohydrate cravers

Bonnie Spring*, Kristin Schneider, Malaina Smith, Darla Kendzor, Bradley Appelhans, Donald Hedeker, Sherry Pagoto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Rationale: The long-rejected construct of food addiction is undergoing re-examination. Objectives: To evaluate whether a novel carbohydrate food shows abuse potential for rigorously defined carbohydrate cravers, as evidenced by selective self-administration and mood enhancement during double-blind discrimination testing. Materials and methods: Discrete trials choice testing was performed with 61 overweight (BMI m=27.64, SD=2.59) women (ages 18-45; 19.70% African American) whose diet records showed >4 weekly afternoon/evening emotional-eating episodes confined to snacks with carbohydrate to protein ratio of >6:1. After being induced into a sad mood, participants were exposed, double-blind and in counterbalanced order, to taste-matched carbohydrate and protein beverages. They were asked to choose and self-administer the drink that made them feel better. Results: Women overwhelmingly chose the carbohydrate beverage, even though blinded. Mixed-effects regression modeling, controlling for beverage order, revealed greater liking and greater reduction in dysphoria after administration of the carbohydrate beverage compared to the protein beverage but no differential effect on vigor. Conclusion: For women who crave them, carbohydrates appear to display abuse potential, plausibly contributing to overconsumption and overweight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-647
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Abuse liability
  • Abuse potential
  • Addictive behavior
  • Appetite
  • Carbohydrate craving
  • Eating
  • Eating disorder
  • Food addiction
  • Food preferences
  • Substance-related disorder
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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