The relative reinforcing value (RRV) of food, defined as how hard an individual is prepared to work to gain access to food rather than a nonfood alternative, has been shown to be higher in obese adults and children than in their normal-weight counterparts. However, these cross-sectional studies are unable to determine whether a high RRV of food is predictive of adiposity change or whether it is a consequence of being obese.
The objective was to examine the association between the RRV of food and 1-y weight gain in children aged 7-10 y.
An observational longitudinal study design was used. The RRV of food was determined by using a questionnaire method at baseline when the children (n = 316) were aged 7-9 y. Adiposity [body mass index (BMI), BMI SD score, fat mass index, waist circumference, and waist circumference SD score] was assessed at baseline and after 1 y.
Regression analyses indicated that the RRV of food was not associated with any measure of adiposity at baseline or at the 1-y follow-up (all P > 0.58). Changes in BMI (B = 0.06, P < 0.001), BMI SD score (B = 0.03, P = 0.001), and fat mass index (B = 0.09, P = 0.001) after 1 y were significantly predicted by the RRV of food at baseline.
The RRV of food predicted the change in adiposity over a relatively short-term period of 1 y and thus may be associated with the development of obesity. The lack of association in cross-sectional analyses indicates that this behavior is a risk factor for weight gain, although weight differences may not emerge until later childhood.