People With Impulsive Personalities Can Increase Obesity and Overeating

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Multiple studies indicate impulsivity is linked to obesity.  

    Overfat

    Overweight

    The notion may surprise you in the slightest, but multiple sets of research support the theory that people with impulsive personalities may be more likely to struggle with addiction whether to drugs, alcohol, or even food, but are they also more likely to be obese?  Impulsivity can create a less predictable lifestyle, a need for new things or excitement for some, but is can also create the perfect set up for eating binges.

    Research on Obesity and Impulsivity:

    1. A study performed at the University of Georgia and published in Appetite in 2013 looked at 233 subjects.  The used the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) to assess food addiction activity and compared the results to the subjects BMI.   They found that people who were impulsive were more likely to develop compulsive eating patterns. They concluded that impulsivity, routinely associated with high-risk behaviors including addictive consumption of alcohol and drugs, may be a significant risk factor for obesity.   This tie is believed to be due to a tendency to engage in the addictive consumption of food and early monitoring food addiction symptoms may help reduce the likelihood that compulsive food consumption patterns result in weight gain and obesity[1]
    2. Fat Pants

      Fat Pants

      In a second study published in 2014 looked at the subject of the Nurses Health Study and used the same YFAS tool to look at over 134,000 women.  They found that 5.8% of the subject or over 7800 met the standard for food addiction.     The food addition group has a higher BMI of greater than 35.0[2].

    3. Another piece of research was published in Obesity in 2017.  Researchers at the Center for BrianHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas have discovered a link between having an impulsive personality and a high body mass index (BMI).  Researchers recruited 45 individuals with an age range 22 to 43 and an average BMI of 30.7.  They analyzed three measures to understand the impact of impulsivity on body weight.  The measures included a self-report, neuropsychological testing and functional magnetic resonance imaging.   Impulsive personality or the tendency to consistently react with little forethought appears to be the key factor that links brain patterns of impulsivity and a higher BMI[3].  
    4. One Last research study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychiatry in 2011 looked at just under 2000 subjects and the tie to obesity to impulsive personalities.  It revealed a relationship with impulsivity leading to a higher body weight of over 11 Kg[4].  

    The Bottomline:  There is a tie between impulsive personalities

    and obesity.  Addressing impulsive personality traits may be an essential part of developing effective weight management program.   Cognitive behavioral healthy strategies for individuals to overcome such impulsive behaviors could be an important component of effective weight-loss programs.  

    Footnotes
    [1]Murphy, Stojek, and MacKillop, “Interrelationships among Impulsive Personality Traits, Food Addiction, and Body Mass Index.”
    [2]Flint et al., “Food-Addiction Scale Measurement in 2 Cohorts of Middle-Aged and Older Women.”
    [3]Filbey and Yezhuvath, “A Multimodal Study of Impulsivity and Body Weight: Integrating Behavioral, Cognitive, and Neuroimaging Approaches.”
    [4]Sutin et al., “Personality and Obesity across the Adult Life Span.”
    Filbey, Francesca M., and Uma S. Yezhuvath. “A Multimodal Study of Impulsivity and Body Weight: Integrating Behavioral, Cognitive, and Neuroimaging Approaches.” Obesity. Wiley-Blackwell, November 29, 2016. doi: 10.1002/oby.21713
    Flint, A. J., A. N. Gearhardt, W. R. Corbin, K. D. Brownell, A. E. Field, and E. B. Rimm. “Food-Addiction Scale Measurement in 2 Cohorts of Middle-Aged and Older Women.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. American Society for Nutrition, January 22, 2014. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.068965
    Murphy, Cara M., Monika K. Stojek, and James MacKillop. “Interrelationships among Impulsive Personality Traits, Food Addiction, and Body Mass Index.” Appetite. Elsevier BV, February 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.10.008
    Sutin, Angelina R., Luigi Ferrucci, Alan B. Zonderman, and Antonio Terracciano. “Personality and Obesity across the Adult Life Span.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. American Psychological Association (APA), 2011. doi: 10.1037/a0024286
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    About the Author

    ChuckH

    I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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