Attentional and motor impulsivity interactively predict ‘food addiction’ in obese individuals (2016)

Compr Psychiatry. 2016 Oct 5;72:83-87. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2016.10.001.

Meule A1, de Zwaan M2, Müller A2.



Impulsivity is a multifaceted construct and constitutes a common risk factor for a range of behaviors associated with poor self-control (e.g., substance use or binge eating). The short form of the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-15) measures impulsive behaviors related to attentional (inability to focus attention or concentrate), motor (acting without thinking), and non-planning (lack of future orientation or forethought) impulsivity. Eating-related measures appear to be particularly related to attentional and motor impulsivity and recent findings suggest that interactive effects between these two facets may play a role in eating- and weight-regulation.


One-hundred thirty-three obese individuals presenting for bariatric surgery (77.4% female) completed the BIS-15 and the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) 2.0, which measures addiction-like eating based on the eleven symptoms of substance use disorder outlined in the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.


Sixty-three participants (47.4%) were classified as being ‘food addicted’. Scores on attentional and motor impulsivity interactively predicted ‘food addiction’ status: higher attentional impulsivity was associated with a higher likelihood of receiving a YFAS 2.0 diagnosis only at high (+1 SD), but not at low (-1 SD) levels of motor impulsivity.


Results support previous findings showing that non-planning impulsivity does not appear to play a role in eating-related self-regulation. Furthermore, this is the first study that shows interactive effects between different impulsivity facets when predicting ‘food addiction’ in obese individuals. Self-regulatory failure in eating-regulation (e.g., addiction-like overeating) may particularly emerge when both attentional and motor impulsivity levels are elevated.

PMID: 27768944

DOI: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2016.10.001