A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms

Nutr Res Rev. 2017 Dec;30(2):272-283. doi: 10.1017/S0954422417000154. Epub 2017 Jul 18.


The role of mindfulness, mindful eating and a newer concept of intuitive eating in modulating eating habits is an area of increasing interest. In this structured literature review, a summary of the current evidence is presented, together with details of interventions undertaken and the tools to measure outcomes. It is broad in scope given the emerging evidence base in this area. The review yielded sixty-eight publications: twenty-three interventions in obese/overweight populations; twenty-nine interventions in normal-weight populations; sixteen observational studies, three of which were carried out in overweight/obese populations. Mindfulness-based approaches appear most effective in addressing binge eating, emotional eating and eating in response to external cues. There is a lack of compelling evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness and mindful eating in weight management. Mindfulness-based approaches may prevent weight gain. Reduced food intake was seen in some of the studies in overweight and obese populations, but this was less apparent in the studies in normal-weight populations. The evidence base for intuitive eating is limited to date and further research is needed to examine its potential in altering eating behaviours. Mindfulness appears to work by an increased awareness of internal, rather than external, cues to eat. Mindfulness and mindful eating have the potential to address problematic eating behaviours and the challenges many face with controlling their food intake. Encouraging a mindful eating approach would seem to be a positive message to be included in general weight management advice to the public.

Keywords: ACT Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; MB-EAT Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training; MBSR Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction; fMRI functional MRI; Emotional eating: External eating; Intuitive eating: Binge eating; Mindful eating; Obese; Overweight.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Awareness
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / therapy
  • Cues
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Mindfulness*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome