Individual differences in executive function predict distinct eating behaviours
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Executive function has been shown to influence the performance of health behaviours. Healthy eating involves both the inhibitory behaviour of consuming low amounts of saturated fat, and the initiatory behaviour of consuming fruit and vegetables. Based on this distinction, it was hypothesised that these behaviours would have different determinants. Measures of inhibitory control and updating were administered to 115 participants across 2 days. One week later saturated fat intake and fruit and vegetable consumption were measured. Regression analyses revealed a double dissociation effect between the different executive function variables and the prediction of eating behaviours. Specifically, inhibitory control, but not updating, predict saturated fat intake, whilst updating, but not inhibitory control, was related to fruit and vegetable consumption. In both cases, better executive function capacity was associated with healthier eating behaviour. The results support the idea that behaviours that require stopping a response such as limiting saturated fat intake, have different determinants to those that require the initiation of a response such as fruit and vegetable consumption. The findings suggest that interventions aimed at improving these behaviours should address the relevant facet of executive function.
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