PURPOSE: High intake of palatable foods, such as energy-dense snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), is common among adolescents. An individual's sensitivity to reward (SR) may influence these intakes. The main objective of this study was to investigate the association between SR and both snack and SSB intake among adolescents.
METHODS: A representative cross-sectional survey was conducted among 1104 14- to 16-year-olds (mean age = 14.7 ± 0.8 years; 50.9 % boys; 18.0 % overweight) in Flanders. Daily intakes were measured by a food frequency questionnaire. SR was assessed using the behavioral activation system (BAS) scales. Multilevel regression analyses (two level: adolescent school) were conducted using STATA version 13.
RESULTS: BAS drive was positively associated with daily intakes of SSBs (13.79 %, p < 0.01), unhealthy snacks (5.42 %, p < 0.001), and energy and nutrients derived from SSBs (p < 0.001) and snacks (p < 0.01). BAS reward responsiveness (RR) was only positively associated with intake of unhealthy snacks (3.85 %, p < 0.05), healthy snacks (6.41 %, p < 0.05), and fat (4.05 %, p < 0.01) and Na (3.89 %, p < 0.05) from snacks. Interaction effects of gender and BAS RR (p < 0.05) were found. Significant positive associations between BAS RR and daily intakes of energy from snacks (6.48 %, p < 0.01) and fat from snacks (7.22 %, p < 0.001) were found only for girls.
CONCLUSION: SR was associated with snack and SSB consumption in adolescents, especially in girls. These findings suggest that SR should be taken into account when designing interventions to improve the snack and SSB intake of adolescents.