Why obese children cannot resist food: the role of impulsivity

C. Nederkoorn, C. Braet, Y. van Eijs, A. Tanghe, A.T.M. Jansen

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Facing the undesirable health consequences of being obese, an important question is why some people are not able to resist eating to excess. It is theorized that increased impulsivity at least partly underlies the inability to control eating behaviour; being more impulsive is supposed to make it more difficult to resist food intake. Thirty-three obese children in a residential setting and 31 lean control children are tested. Impulsivity is measured with two behavioural measures (inhibitory control and sensitivity to reward) and questionnaires. Results show that the obese children in treatment were more sensitive to reward and showed less inhibitory control than normal weight children. In addition, the obese children with eating binges were more impulsive than the obese children without eating binges. Most interesting finding was that the children that were the least effective in inhibiting responses, lost less weight in the residential treatment program. To conclude: impulsivity is a personality characteristic that potentially has crucial consequences for the development and maintenance, as well as treatment of obesity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-322
JournalEating Behaviors
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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