Document Type



Medicine and Health Sciences



The goal of this study was to test a hypothesis associating impulsivity with an elevated body mass index (BMI).


To this end, we examined associations of BMI with putative genetic, neurophysiological, psychiatric, and psychological indicators of impulsivity in 78 women and 74 men formerly dependent on alcohol or drugs. A second analysis was designed to test the replicability of the genetic findings in an independent sample of 109 women and 111 men with a similar history of substance dependence.


The results of the first analysis showed that BMI was positively correlated with Total and Nonplanning Scale Scores on the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale and the number of childhood symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in women. It was also positively correlated, in women, with a GABRA2variant previously implicated as a risk factor for substance dependence and an objective electroencephalographic feature previously associated with GABRA2 and relapse risk. The second analysis confirmed that the correlation between BMI and the substance-dependence-associated GABRA2 genotype was reliable and sex-specific.


We conclude that an elevated BMI is associated with genetic, neurophysiological, psychiatric, and psychological indicators of impulsivity. The sex difference may be explained by greater opportunities to eat and overeat, a preference for higher calorie foods, a longer duration of alcohol/drug abstinence, or previous pregnancies in women


Am J Addict. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Sep 16. Published in final edited form as: Am J Addict. 2012 Sep-Oct; 21(5): 404–410. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2012.00252.x PMCID: PMC3773931 NIHMSID: NIHMS507458