Food addiction and impaired executive functions in women with obesity (2018)

Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2018 Aug 30. doi: 10.1002/erv.2636.

Steward T1,2, Mestre-Bach G1,2, Vintró-Alcaraz C1,2, Lozano-Madrid M1,2, Agüera Z1,2, Fernández-Formoso JA1, Granero R1,3, Jiménez-Murcia S1,2,4, Vilarrasa N5,6, García-Ruiz-de-Gordejuela A7, Veciana de Las Heras M4, Custal N2, Virgili N4,5, López-Urdiales R5, Gearhardt AN8, Menchón JM2,4,9, Soriano-Mas C2,3,9, Fernández-Aranda F1,2,4.



Individuals with obesity (OB) often report suffering from addiction-like symptoms. As in addictions, deficits in executive function domains, such as decision-making and sustained attention, are found in OB. No study to date has examined the associations between food addiction, OB, and neuropsychological performance.


Thirty-three adult women with OB and 36 healthy weight controls completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale Version 2.0, a validated instrument used to assess food-related addictive behaviours. Additionally, participants completed computerized versions of the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) and Conners’ Continuous Performance Test, second edition (CPT-II) to examine decision-making and attentional control, respectively.


Food addiction criteria were met in 24.2% of the participants with OB and in 2.8% of the control group. In the OB group, food addiction severity levels were negatively correlated with overall scores on the IGT. Participants with OB meeting criteria for food addiction committed more omissions and perseveration errors on the CPT-II compared with those without food addiction.


Our results point to an association between food addiction severity levels and impairments in decision-making and attentional capacity in individuals with OB. Given the heterogeneity found in OB, it stands to reason that this subset of patients with food addiction could potentially benefit from interventions targeting neuropsychological deficits.

KEYWORDS: attention; decision-making; executive functions; food addiction; obesity

PMID: 30159982

DOI: 10.1002/erv.2636