Abstract

Although hyperphagia is a salient feature of Prader-Willi syndrome, researchers have yet to move beyond food preference and taste studies to examine more troublesome food-seeking behaviors in this population (e.g., eating food from the trash, eating inappropriate or unpalatable food combinations). Visually based tasks were used to examine willingness to eat contaminated food and various odd food combinations in 50 adolescents and adults with Prader-Willi syndrome, 42 IQ-matched participants with mental retardation, and 50 control participants without mental retardation. Although participants with Prader-Willi syndrome showed understandings similar to those of control participants about the purpose and fate of food, they endorsed eating contaminated food as well as highly unusual edible and inedible food combinations. Findings suggest novel adjuncts to traditional dietary approaches in the Prader-Willi syndrome population. Implications are also discussed for future research on food ideation in this population.

The author thanks the study participants for their enthusiastic involvement as well as Robert M. Hodapp for his comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This research was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant No. R01 HD356-84-01 and Program Project 03008.

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