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Appetite. 2017 May 1;112:59-68. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.01.009. Epub 2017 Jan 10.

Multidimensional assessment of impulsivity in relation to obesity and food addiction.

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Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, United States.
Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, United States; Section on Growth and Obesity, Program in Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, United States.
Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, United States; Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University/St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Canada; Homewood Research Institute, Homewood Health Centre, Canada. Electronic address:


Based on similarities between overconsumption of food and addictive drugs, there is increasing interest in "food addiction," a compulsive eating pattern defined using symptoms parallel to substance use disorders. Impulsivity, a multidimensional construct robustly linked to drug addiction, has been increasingly examined as an obesity determinant, but with mixed findings. This study sought to clarify relations between three major domains of impulsivity (i.e., impulsive personality traits, discounting of delayed rewards, and behavioral inhibition) in both obesity and food addiction. Based on the association between impulsivity and compulsive drug use, the general hypothesis was that the impulsivity-food addiction relation would be stronger than and responsible for the impulsivity-obesity relation. Using a cross-sectional dimensional design, participants (N = 181; 32% obese) completed a biometric assessment, the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS), the UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scales, a Go/NoGo task, and measures of monetary delay discounting. Results revealed significantly higher prevalence of food addiction among obese participants and stronger zero-order associations between impulsivity indices and YFAS compared to obesity. Two aspects of impulsivity were independently significantly associated with food addiction: (a) a composite of Positive and Negative Urgency, reflecting proneness to act impulsively during intense mood states, and (b) steep discounting of delayed rewards. Furthermore, the results supported food addiction as a mediator connecting both urgency and delay discounting with obesity. These findings provide further evidence linking impulsivity to food addiction and obesity, and suggest that food addiction may be a candidate etiological pathway to obesity for individuals exhibiting elevations in these domains.


Delay discounting; Food addiction; Impulsivity; Obesity; Urgency

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