Computerized measurement of anticipated anxiety from eating increasing portions of food in adolescents with and without anorexia nervosa: Pilot studies

H. R. Kissileff*, J. M. Brunstrom, R. Tesser, D. Bellace, S. Berthod, J. C. Thornton, K. Halmi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
479 Downloads (Pure)


Dieting and excessive fear of eating coexist in vulnerable individuals, which may progress to anorexia nervosa [AN], but there is no objective measure of this fear. Therefore, we adapted a computer program that was previously developed to measure the satiating effects of foods in order to explore the potential of food to induce anxiety and fear of eating in adolescent girls. Twenty four adolescents (AN) and ten healthy controls without eating disorders rated pictures of different types of foods in varying sized portions as too large or too small and rated the expected anxiety of five different portions (20-320 kcal). Two low energy dense (potatoes and rice) and two high energy dense (pizza and M&Ms) foods were used. The regression coefficient of line lengths (0-100 mm) marked from "No anxiety" to "this would give me a panic attack", regressed from portions shown, was the measure of "expected anxiety" for a given food. The maximum tolerated portion size [kcal] (MTPS), computed by method of constant stimulus from portions shown, was significantly smaller for high energy dense foods, whereas the expected anxiety response was greater, for all foods, for patients compared to controls. For both groups, expected anxiety responses were steeper, and maximum tolerated portion sizes were larger, for low, than high, energy dense foods. Both maximum tolerated portion size and expected anxiety response were significantly predicted by severity of illness for the patients. Those who had larger maximum tolerated portion sizes had smaller anticipated anxiety to increasing portion sizes. Visual size had a greater influence than energy content for these responses. This method could be used to quantify the anxiety inducing potential of foods and for studies with neuro-imaging and phenotypic clarifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-168
Number of pages9
Early online date26 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour


  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Food choice
  • Food intake controls
  • Perception
  • Portion size selection


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