Effects of a food-specific inhibition training in individuals with binge eating disorder—findings from a randomized controlled proof-of-concept study

  • Katrin Elisabeth GielEmail author
  • Eva Speer
  • Kathrin Schag
  • Elisabeth Johanna Leehr
  • Stephan Zipfel
Original Article



Impulsivity might contribute to the development and maintenance of obesity and eating disorders. Patients suffering from binge eating disorder (BED) show an impulsive eating pattern characterized by regular binge eating episodes. Novel behavioral interventions increasing inhibitory control could improve eating behavior in BED. We piloted a novel food-specific inhibition training in individuals with BED.


N = 22 BED patients according to SCID-I were randomly assigned to three sessions of a training or control condition. In both conditions, pictures of high-caloric food items were presented in peripheral vision on a computer screen while assessing gaze behavior. The training group had to suppress the urge to turn their gaze towards these pictures (i.e., to perform antisaccades). The control group was allowed to freely explore the pictures. We assessed self-reported food craving, food addiction, and wanting/liking of food pictures pre- and post-intervention.


Twenty participants completed the study. The training proved to be feasible and acceptable. Patients of the training group significantly improved inhibitory control towards high-caloric food stimuli. Both groups reported a significantly lower number of binge eating episodes in the last four weeks after termination of the study. No changes were found in food craving, food addiction, liking, and wanting ratings.


A food-specific inhibition training could be a useful element in the treatment of BED and other eating disorders; however, larger efficacy studies in patient samples are needed to investigate the efficacy of this and similar training approaches.


Antisaccade Binge eating Eating disorders Food Impulsivity Inhibition Training 



We thank all patients for their participation in the present study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have 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 Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrin Elisabeth Giel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eva Speer
    • 1
  • Kathrin Schag
    • 1
  • Elisabeth Johanna Leehr
    • 1
  • Stephan Zipfel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and PsychotherapyMedical University Hospital TuebingenTübingenGermany

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