Intuitive eating (IE) is characterized by eating in response to physiological hunger and satiety cues rather than emotional cues and not considering certain foods to be forbidden. Evidence supports an inverse association of IE with body mass index (BMI), but little is known about its association with food intake.
We aimed to examine the relation between IE and food intake in a large sample from the general adult population.
A total of 9581 men and 31,955 women aged ≥18 y participating in the NutriNet-Santé cohort were included in this cross-sectional analysis. IE was assessed by using the validated French version of the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 (modeled in quartiles). Food intake was assessed by using ≥6 self-reported 24-h dietary records (2009-2015). The associations between IE subscales (Eating for Physical rather than Emotional Reasons, referred to as Physical Reasons; Reliance on Hunger and Satiety Cues, referred to as Cues; and Unconditional Permission to Eat, referred to as Permission) and food intake were assessed by using multiple linear and logistic regression models.
In women, higher Physical Reasons and Cues scores were associated with lower energy intake (P < 0.0001). Also, a higher Physical Reasons score was associated with lower sweet- and fatty-food intake in both women (143 g/d in quartile 1 compared with 124 g/d in quartile 4) and men (153 compared with 138 g/d) and lower intakes of dairy products and meat, fish, and eggs in women (all P < 0.0001). A higher Cues score was associated with a lower intake of dairy products and meat, fish, and eggs in both sexes and a higher whole-grain intake in women (all P < 0.0001). In contrast, higher Permission scores were associated with a higher energy intake and unhealthier intake, including lower fruit, vegetable, and whole-grain intake (all P < 0.0001).
IE dimensions such as Physical Reasons and Cues subscales were associated with healthier dietary intakes overall, whereas the Permission dimension was associated with unhealthier dietary intakes. From a public health perspective, these findings suggest the importance of developing strategies to promote eating in response to hunger and satiety signals. This study was registered at eudract.ema.europa.eu as 2013-000929-31