Food-Cal: development of a controlled database of high and low calorie food matched with non-food pictures

  • Rebecca ShanklandEmail author
  • Pauline Favre
  • Damien Corubolo
  • David Méary
  • Valentin Flaudias
  • Martial Mermillod
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Food and Addiction



Industrialization has led to more varied and attractive high-calorie foods. Health problems such as obesity and diabetes are partially attributed to eating-related self-regulation difficulties that may be caused by increasingly frequent cues for highly palatable foods. Research studies aim at understanding the factors underlying responses to food cues. This has led to the development of food stimuli databases. However, they present some limitations.


This study aimed at providing a controlled set of pictures, including 40 food pictures with high- and low-calorie stimuli, matched with 40 non-food pictures. The second objective was to provide a ready-to-use database with normative data regarding responses and associations between demographic, anthropometric and eating-related characteristics, and picture ratings.


A sample of 264 participants rated the total set of pictures.


Attractiveness, arousal and palatability were assessed for each picture, as well as participant’s current type of diet, BMI, hunger levels and eating behaviors (uncontrolled and emotional eating).


Image characteristics (shape, colors, luminance) were comparable between food and matched non-food pictures. Positive correlations were found between hunger levels and attractiveness, arousal and palatability of food. Uncontrolled and emotional eating was positively correlated with high-calorie food palatability, and uncontrolled eating was positively correlated with high-calorie food attractiveness. Participants who did not report any specific diet rated high-calorie foods as more attractive and arousing, whereas vegan and vegetarian participants assessed low-calorie foods as more attractive and palatable.


The Food-Cal controlled set of picture database can be considered as a useful tool for experimental research.

Level of evidence

Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.


Picture database High-calorie foods Low-calorie foods Controlled food pictures Eating behaviors 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent

All participants signed an informed consent before completing the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Univ. Grenoble Alpes/Univ. Savoie Mont-Blanc BSHM, Laboratoire Interuniversitaire de Psychologie, Personnalité, Cognition, Changement Social, EA 4145GrenobleFrance
  2. 2.INSERM U955 Team 15 « Translational Psychiatry », Neurospin, CEA Paris-SaclayGif-sur-YvetteFrance
  3. 3.Univ. Grenoble Alpes/Univ. Savoie Mont-Blanc, LPNC, CNRS UMR 5105GrenobleFrance
  4. 4.CHU Clermont-Ferrand, Pôle Psychiatrie BClermont-FerrandFrance
  5. 5.Univ. d’Auvergne, EA NPsy-SydoClermont-FerrandFrance

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