BACKGROUND: Interoception refers to the processes by which we sense, interpret and integrate signals originating from within the body. Deficits in interoception have been linked to higher BMI and may contribute to weight gain. However, there have been conflicting findings and it is not clear how higher BMI is associated with different facets of interoception, such as interoceptive accuracy (the ability to detect internal signals) and sensibility (the tendency to attend to internal signals).
METHODS: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that measured interoception and BMI. We examined relationships between interoception and BMI in children and adults separately and as a function of interoceptive facet and measure. In sensitivity analyses, we tested for evidence of publication bias and whether the results were consistent when studies with a high risk of bias were excluded.
RESULTS: A total of 87 articles were eligible for inclusion. In adults (121 effects, 10,425 participants), there was cross-sectional evidence of higher BMI being associated with overall deficits in interoception (r = -0.054, 95% CI: -0.084 to -0.025) and this was consistent across sensitivity analyses. There was no statistically significant evidence of moderation by interoceptive facet or measure, although there was some variability in effect size estimates based on interoceptive facet and measures. A smaller meta-analysis limited to studies that compared participants with normal weight vs. overweight/obesity indicated poorer interoception in participants with overweight/obesity (SMD = -0.39, 95% CI -0.60 to -0.18).
CONCLUSIONS: In cross-sectional studies, deficits in interoception are associated with higher BMI. However, it remains unclear whether deficits in interoception contribute to or are a consequence of weight gain and obesity.