Poorer inhibitory control was related to greater food intake across meals varying in portion size: A randomized crossover trial

Paige M. Cunningham, Liane S. Roe, Alaina L. Pearce, Kathleen Loralee Keller, Barbara J. Rolls

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Individuals eat more food when larger portions are served, and this portion size effect could be influenced by inhibitory control (the ability to suppress an automatic response). Inhibitory control may also relate to obesogenic meal behaviors such as eating faster, taking larger bites, and frequent switching between meal components (such as bites of food and sips of water). In a randomized crossover design, 44 adults ate lunch four times in the laboratory. Lunch consisted of a pasta dish that was varied in portion size (400, 500, 600, or 700 g) along with 700 g of water. Meals were video-recorded to assess meal duration and bite and sip counts, which were used to determine mean eating rate (g/min), mean bite size (g/bite), and number of switches between bites and sips. Participants completed a food-specific stop-signal task, which was used to calculate Stop-Signal Reaction Time (SSRT). Across participants, SSRT values ranged from 143 to 306 msec, where greater SSRT indicates poorer inhibitory control. As expected, serving larger portions increased meal intake (p < 0.0001); compared to the smallest portion, intake of the largest increased by 121 ± 17 g (mean ± SEM). SSRT did not moderate the portion size effect (p = 0.34), but individuals with poorer inhibitory control ate more across all meals: 24 ± 11 g for each one SD unit increase in SSRT (p = 0.035). SSRT was not related to eating rate or bite size (both p > 0.13), but poorer inhibitory control predicted greater switching between bites and sips, such that 1.5 ± 0.7 more switches were made during meals for each one SD unit increase in SSRT (p = 0.03). These findings indicate that inhibitory control can contribute to overconsumption across meals varying in portion size, potentially in part by promoting switching behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107168
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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