Executive functioning and psychological symptoms in food addiction: a study among individuals with severe obesity (2018)

Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Jun 26. doi: 10.1007/s40519-018-0530-1.

Rodrigue C1, Ouellette AS1, Lemieux S2,3, Tchernof A2,3,4, Biertho L4,5, Bégin C6,7,8.


Food addiction (FA) has recently emerged as a new field in the study of obesity. Previous studies have contributed to identifying psychological correlates of FA. However, few researchers have examined the cognitive profile related to this condition; up until now, attentional biases related to food cues and a poorer performance monitoring have been observed. The present study aimed to examine the psychological profile and executive functioning related to FA in individuals with severe obesity and awaiting bariatric surgery. Participants (N = 86) were split into two groups, according to their level of FA symptoms (low FA vs high FA). Groups were compared on questionnaires measuring binge eating, depression and anxiety symptoms, and impulsivity as well as on measures reflecting executive functioning (D-KEFS and BRIEF-A). The relationship between FA groups and patterns of errors during the D-KEFS’ Color-Word Interference Test was further analyzed. Individuals within the high FA group reported significantly more binge eating, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and more metacognitive difficulties. They also tended to show a poorer inhibition/cognitive flexibility score and a typical pattern of errors, characterized by an increased number of errors as the tasks’ difficulty rose as opposed to a decreased number of errors, which characterizes an atypical pattern of errors. The present results show that the inability to learn from errors or past experiences is related to the severity of FA and overall impairments.Level of evidence Level V, descriptive study.

KEYWORDS: Error processing; Executive functioning; Food addiction; Obesity; Psychological symptoms

PMID: 29947017

DOI: 10.1007/s40519-018-0530-1