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Appetite. 2015 Apr;87:127-36. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.12.203. Epub 2014 Dec 17.

The influence of hot and cool executive function on the development of eating styles related to overweight in children.

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Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Street 24/25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Street 24/25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany.


Studies linking executive function (EF) and overweight suggest that a broad range of executive functions might influence weight via obesity-related behaviors, such as particular eating styles. Currently, however, longitudinal studies investigating this assumption in children are rare. We hypothesized that lower hot and cool EF predicts a stronger increase in eating styles related to greater weight gain (food approach) and a weaker increase in eating styles related to less weight gain (food avoidance) over a 1-year period. Hot (delay of gratification, affective decision-making) and cool (attention shifting, inhibition, working memory updating) EF was assessed experimentally in a sample of 1657 elementary-school children (German school classes 1-3) at two time points, approximately one year apart. The children's food-approach and food-avoidance behavior was rated mainly via parent questionnaires at both time points. As expected, lower levels of hot and cool EF predicted a stronger increase in several food-approach eating styles across a 1-year period, mainly in girls. Unexpectedly, poorer performance on the affective decision-making task also predicted an increase in certain food-avoidance styles, namely, slowness in eating and satiety responsiveness, in girls. Results implicate that lower EF is not only seen in eating-disordered or obese individuals but also acts as a risk factor for an increase in particular eating styles that play a role in the development of weight problems in children.


Development of eating behavior; Food approach; Food avoidance; Hot/cool executive function; Middle childhood; Overweight

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