Current Nutrition Reports

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 21–28 | Cite as

Associations Between Cool and Hot Executive Functions and Children’s Eating Behavior

  • Cin Cin Tan
  • Julie C. Lumeng
Maternal and Childhood Nutrition (AC Wood, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Maternal and Childhood Nutrition


Purpose of review

Studies on obesogenic eating behaviors in young children have mainly focused on the roles of family environment and parental behaviors. However, intrapersonal characteristics, particularly executive functions, have recently gained more attention in the literature. Therefore, herein we review work on children’s executive functions (EFs), particularly the roles of cold and hot executive functions on children’s obesogenic eating behaviors.

Recent findings

Most work examining the associations between EF and obesogenic eating among children has focused on the cool EF, particularly inhibitory control/impulsivity. Findings have consistently showed that deficits in inhibitory control/impulsivity are associated with overeating and food responsiveness. The roles of the other two cool EFs (attention control/shifting and working memory) and hot EF (delay of gratification and affective decision-making) in contributing to child obesogenic eating are less clear. For instance, the association between children’s performance on delay of gratification tasks and obesogenic eating varies depending on whether food or non-food rewards were used; children with poorer delay of gratification in non-food tasks had more obesogenic eating, although children with poorer delay of gratification in food tasks had less obesogenic eating.


Deficits in inhibitory control/impulsivity are associated with more obesogenic eating, suggesting that improving children’s inhibition may reduce overeating and childhood obesity. The roles of other cool and hot components of EFs in contributing to obesogenic eating require further study.


Executive functions Eating Child Hot executive function Cool executive function Obesity 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Cin Cin Tan and Julie C. Lumeng declare they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Human Growth and DevelopmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Michigan Medical SchoolAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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