Executive functioning and psychological symptoms in food addiction: a study among individuals with severe obesity

  • Christopher Rodrigue
  • Anne-Sophie Ouellette
  • Simone Lemieux
  • André Tchernof
  • Laurent Biertho
  • Catherine BéginEmail author
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Food and Addiction


Food addiction (FA) has recently emerged as a new field in the study of obesity. Previous studies have contributed to identifying psychological correlates of FA. However, few researchers have examined the cognitive profile related to this condition; up until now, attentional biases related to food cues and a poorer performance monitoring have been observed. The present study aimed to examine the psychological profile and executive functioning related to FA in individuals with severe obesity and awaiting bariatric surgery. Participants (N = 86) were split into two groups, according to their level of FA symptoms (low FA vs high FA). Groups were compared on questionnaires measuring binge eating, depression and anxiety symptoms, and impulsivity as well as on measures reflecting executive functioning (D-KEFS and BRIEF-A). The relationship between FA groups and patterns of errors during the D-KEFS’ Color-Word Interference Test was further analyzed. Individuals within the high FA group reported significantly more binge eating, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and more metacognitive difficulties. They also tended to show a poorer inhibition/cognitive flexibility score and a typical pattern of errors, characterized by an increased number of errors as the tasks’ difficulty rose as opposed to a decreased number of errors, which characterizes an atypical pattern of errors. The present results show that the inability to learn from errors or past experiences is related to the severity of FA and overall impairments.

Level of evidence Level V, descriptive study.


Food addiction Obesity Executive functioning Psychological symptoms Error processing 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dr. Tchernof as well as Dr. Biertho report grants from Johnson & Jonhson Medical Companies, outside the submitted work. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyLaval UniversityQuebec CityCanada
  2. 2.School of NutritionLaval UniversityQuebec CityCanada
  3. 3.Institute of Nutrition and Functional FoodsLaval UniversityQuebec CityCanada
  4. 4.Quebec Heart and Lung InstituteQuebec CityCanada
  5. 5.Department of SurgeryLaval UniversityQuebec CityCanada

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