Inhibitory control in obesity and binge eating disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis of neurocognitive and neuroimaging studies

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The ability to exercise appropriate inhibitory control is critical in the regulation of body weight, but the exact mechanisms are not known. In this systematic review, we identified 37 studies that used specific neuropsychological tasks relevant to inhibitory control performance in obese participants with and without binge eating disorder (BED). We performed a meta-analysis of the studies that used the stop signal task (N = 8). We further examined studies on the delay discounting task, the go/no-go task and the Stroop task in a narrative review. We found that inhibitory control is significantly impaired in obese adults and children compared to individuals with body weight within a healthy range (Standardized Mean Difference (SMD): 0.30; CI = 0.00, 0.59, p = 0.007). The presence of BED in obese individuals did not impact on task performance (SMD: 0.05; CI: −0.22, 0.32, p = 0.419). Neuroimaging studies in obesity suggest that lower prefrontal cortex activity affects inhibitory control and BMI. In summary, impairment in inhibitory control is a critical feature associated with obesity and a potential target for clinical interventions.

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