Physical Activity Tied to Excess Eating Via Executive Function

Physical activity enhances executive function, may help suppress drive to overeat

FRIDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Physical activity indirectly modifies eating behavior and may suppress overeating by strengthening executive function, according to a review published in the October issue of Obesity Reviews.

Richard J. Joseph, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues reviewed available literature on eating behavior at a neurocognitive level and the impact of physical activity on cognition and the brain to investigate whether physical activity and eating behavior share a common neurocognitive mechanism.

The investigators identified a common neurocognitive link, which pertained to executive functions that rely on brain circuits located in the prefrontal cortex. The processes have a limited capacity, and undergo strain in an obesogenic environment. The increased demand, overuse, and/or subsequent impairment of these neurocognitive resources were likely to generate impulses to overeat, leading to weight gain and obesity. Physical activity enhances neurocognitive resources for executive functions, and goal-oriented behavior, which are necessary for inhibitory control and may counteract the impulsive-eating drive. Facilitating top-down inhibitory control by increasing physical activity is likely to help suppress the drive to overeat.

"Investigating physical activity and other possible modes of enhancing executive function may increase our understanding of how to control appetite and enhance inhibitory mechanisms that regulate eating behavior," the authors write.

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