Beating uncontrolled eating: Training inhibitory control to reduce food intake and food cue sensitivity

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  • Danna Oomen
  • Maud Grol
  • Desiree Spronk
  • Charlotte Booth
  • Elaine Fox

In our food-rich environment we must constantly resist appealing food in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Previous studies have found that food-specific inhibition training can produce changes in eating behaviour, such as a reduction in snack consumption. However, the mechanisms that drive the effect of inhibition training on eating behaviour remain unknown. Identifying the mechanism underlying food-specific inhibition training could lead to more targeted training interventions increasing the potential efficacy of such interventions. In the current study, we investigated directly whether training-induced effects on inhibitory control might underlie the predicted change in eating behaviour. Healthy individuals who scored high on uncontrolled eating were randomly assigned to receive six online training sessions over six consecutive days of either food-specific response inhibition training (active group; n = 21) or response inhibition training without food stimuli (control group; n = 20). We measured pre- and post-training inhibitory control in the context of food and food cue sensitivity, as well as food consumption in a bogus taste test. As expected, food-specific inhibition training decreased snack consumption in the bogus taste test relative to control training. However, the active training did not improve inhibitory control towards food, nor did it reduce food cue sensitivity above and beyond the control training. Future studies are needed to investigate the potential underlying mechanism of food-specific inhibition training, as it remains unclear what drives the reliable effect on eating behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-83
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme ( FP7/2007–2013 )/ERC grant agreement no: [ 324176 ] to EF. Funding sources had no involvement in study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of the report, nor in the decision making to submit the article for publication. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Cognitive training, Food cue sensitivity, go/no-go, Overeating, Response inhibition, Self-control
  • Psychology