Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback has been reported to increase HRV while decreasing symptoms in patients with mental disorders. In addition, associations between low HRV and lowered self-regulation were found in non-clinical samples, e.g., in individuals with strong chocolate cravings or unsuccessful dieting. The current study aimed at decreasing food cravings with HRV-biofeedback in individuals frequently experiencing such cravings. Participants (N = 56) with strong or low food cravings associated with a lack of control over eating were selected from the local community. Half of the participants with strong cravings (craving-biofeedback; n = 14) performed 12 sessions of HRV-biofeedback while the other half (craving-control; n = 14) and a group with low cravings (non-craving-control; n = 28) received no intervention. Subjective food cravings related to a lack of control over eating decreased from pre- to post-measurement in the craving-biofeedback group, but remained constant in the control groups. Moreover, only the craving-biofeedback group showed a decrease in eating and weight concerns. Although HRV-biofeedback was successful in reducing food cravings, this change was not accompanied by an increase in HRV. Instead, HRV decreased in the craving-control group. This study provides preliminary evidence that HRV-biofeedback could be beneficial for attenuating dysfunctional eating behavior although specific mechanisms remain to be elucidated.
Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2012 Dec;37(4):241-51. doi: 10.1007/s10484-012-9197-y. Meule A, Freund R, Skirde AK, Vögele C, Kübler A. Department of Psychology I, University of Würzburg, Marcusstrasse 9-11, Würzburg, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org