Heightened impulsivity and inefficient inhibitory control are increasingly recognized as risk factors for unhealthy eating and obesity but the underlying processes are not fully understood. We used structural equation modeling to investigate the relationships between impulsivity, inhibitory control, eating behavior, and body mass index (BMI) in 210 undergraduates who ranged from underweight to obese. We demonstrate that impulsivity and inhibitory control deficits are positively associated with several facets of unhealthy eating, including overeating in response to external food cues and in response to negative emotional states, and making food choices based on taste preferences without consideration of health value. We further show that such unhealthy eating is, for the most part, associated with increased BMI, with the exception of Restraint Eating, which is negatively associated with BMI. These results add to our understanding of the impact of individual differences in impulsivity and inhibitory control on key aspects of unhealthy eating and may have implications for the treatment and prevention of obesity.
Published in Volume 59, Issue 3, pages 738-747