The Role of Impulsivity in Obesity as Measured by Inhibitory Control: A Systematic Review

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Myutan Kulendran Ivo Vlaev Patricia Gamboa Ara Darzi


Objective: There is evidence that executive function (and specifically inhibitory control) is related to obesity and eating behaviour. The go-no go task, the Stop Signal Paradigm and the Stroop Task are examples of behavioural tasks to measure inhibitory control.

Methods: This paper systematically reviews the literature on inhibitory control and its role in obesity and eating behaviours. Studies involving animals, particular clinical population (addiction, eating or psychiatric disorder) and work not related to obesity or psychology were excluded. Only papers that examined the relationship between inhibitory control and one or more eating-related measurements (BMI, BMI change or laboratory food intake measures) were included. Twenty one studies met the selection criteria. Computerized tasks to measure inhibitory control were used in the studies analysed in this review.

Results: The studies that used the go-no go task reveal that age can moderate the relationship between impulsivity and body weight or reported no association. Studies using the Stop Signal Paradigm reveal that the results on the task are a predictor of weight loss in both adolescents and adults populations. Studies using the Stroop Task demonstrate a difference between obese and normal weight groups.

Conclusions: These results reveal the role of inhibitory control in obesity. However, a better understanding of the mechanisms behind this connection is needed. We also conclude that performance tasks that measure inhibitory control are able to differentiate between obese and non-obese groups, but it is recommended wider population range and larger samples in future studies.

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How to Cite
KULENDRAN, Myutan et al. The Role of Impulsivity in Obesity as Measured by Inhibitory Control: A Systematic Review. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 8, aug. 2017. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 08 aug. 2020.
obesity; systematic review; impulsivity; inhibitory control
Research Articles


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