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Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jan;83(1):132-8.

Is restrained eating a risk factor for weight gain in a general population?

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  • 1INSERM U258, IFR69, Villejuif, France.



In modern societies characterized by abundant and accessible foods, restrained eating may become an adaptive behavior to limit weight gain.


We assessed the relations between eating behavior (EB) and adiposity in a general population over a 2-y period.


We recruited 466 adults and 271 adolescents in 1999 on a geographical basis to participate in a longitudinal study. At the initial examination and 2 y later, they answered an EB questionnaire, the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire-R18, which measured cognitive restraint (CR), uncontrolled eating, and emotional eating. On the same occasions, several measures of adiposity were also obtained: body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2), waist circumference, the sum of 4 skinfold thicknesses, and percentage body fat. Relations between EB and adiposity were tested separately in adults and adolescents by using mixed linear regressions after adjustment for age, sex, and (in adolescents) Tanner pubertal stage.


At baseline, CR was positively associated with BMI in normal-weight subjects (mean BMI: 21.4 in the lowest to 23.3 in the highest CR quintile; P < 0.001) but not in overweight adults (P = 0.25). Initial CR did not predict change in adiposity variables (BMI change: P = 0.79 in adults, P = 0.57 in adolescents and young adults). Conversely, a high initial BMI was associated with a larger increase in CR (beta = 20.1, P < 0.0001 in adults; beta = 21.7, P = 0.003 in adolescents and young adults).


Restrained eating is strongly associated with adiposity in normal-weight subjects but not in overweight subjects. However, restrained eating does not promote weight gain.

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