The Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, body mass index, and responses to sweet and salty fatty foods: A twin study of genetic and environmental associations

  • Keskitalo K
  • Tuorila H
  • Spector T
 et al. 
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BACKGROUND: The relation between body weight and energy-dense foods remains unclear.

OBJECTIVE: We estimated the effects of genetic and environmental factors on cognitive and emotional aspects of dieting behavior, body mass index (BMI), and responses to fatty foods and on their relations.

DESIGN: A total of 1326 adult twin persons (aged 17-82 y; 17% M and 83% F) from the United Kingdom and Finland completed the revised version of the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ-R18) and reported the liking and use-frequency of 4 sweet-and-fatty and salty-and-fatty food items (6 items in the United Kingdom and 5 items in Finland). Genetic modeling was done by using linear structural equations.

RESULTS: Heritability estimates were calculated separately for the countries and sexes; they were 26-63% for cognitive restraint, 45-69% for uncontrolled eating, and 9-45% for emotional eating, respectively. Of the variation in liking and use-frequency of fatty foods, 24-54% was attributed to interindividual genetic differences. No significant correlations were observed between BMI and fatty food use or liking. However, BMI was positively (mostly genetically) correlated (genetic r = 0.16-0.51) with all of the dieting behaviors, and they correlated with fatty food use and liking ratings. Uncontrolled eating was both genetically and environmentally associated with liking for salty-and-fatty foods (genetic and environmental r = 0.16), and emotional eating was genetically associated with liking for sweet-and-fatty foods (genetic r = 0.31).

CONCLUSIONS: The relation between BMI and diet appears to be mediated through dieting behaviors. Dietary counseling should focus on unhealthy dieting behaviors rather than only on direct advice on food use.

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