Obesity Could Be Directly Related to Food Addiction

The global rate of obesity has been rising for years. Some researchers predict that in the United States, if obesity is not addressed, nearly every citizen will be obese or overweight by 2050. Evidence exists showing similar neurological processes at work in both food addiction and substance addiction and dependency. With this in mind, clinicians and researchers are attempting to devise interventions and treatments to combat food addiction and obesity. However, in order to do so, they must first know what the prevalence of food addiction is in the general population, and how food addiction is associated with obesity.

To accomplish this, Padis Pedram of the Discipline of Medicine at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada recently assessed 652 participants to determine their body mass index (BMI), macronutrient intake (fat, protein, carbohydrates), overall body composition, and the effect of food addiction on obesity. Using the Yale Food Addiction Scale, Pedram determined that 5.4% of the participants met the criteria for food addiction. This rate increased with obesity.

When looking at all the measurements, including BMI, waist circumference, and trunk size, Pedram found that participants with high measurements were more likely to present with symptoms of food addiction. In fact, those with food addiction had an average of 4.6 more units on the BMI scale and weighed an average of 11.7 kg more than participants without food addiction. Additionally, the participants with food addiction had approximately 8.5% more body fat than the others.

Pedram also discovered that people with food addiction acquired most of their excess calories from protein and fat. This could indicate that these foods are the foods of choice for emotional and binge eating. Although these findings should be replicated in future work, these results lay the foundation for efforts aimed at reducing obesity. Pedram added, “These data provide the first direct evidence that ‘food addiction’ is strongly associated with obesity in the general population.” Interventions addressing individuals with food addiction are strongly encouraged.

Pedram P, Wadden D, Amini P, Gulliver W, Randell E, et al. (2013). Food addiction: Its prevalence and significant association with obesity in the general population. PLoS ONE 8(9): e74832. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074832

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  • Rosie


    September 16th, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    I don’t really know too much about this as I am lucky to have not had to struggle with my weight one way or the other in my adult life and I know that I am fortunate. But do you think that this could make someone who actually does have issues with food addiction feel just a little like they are being dismissed, like they are being told that their addiction is only a part of being obeses and that if they didn’t have the weight issue then maybe they wouldn’t have the addiction issue either? I, like i said, have no real experience with this at all, but I would imagine that for anyone with any sort of addiction it would have to be hard to think that there is a huge segment of the population who believes that you really may not have a problem at all or one that would be so easily overcome if only you would do this one thing, which in this case would be to lose weight. I know enough people who have tried and tried to lose weight to know that it isn’t that easy otherwise no one would ever choose to be fat. I just want us to be careful with how we put things so that we don’t make someone who probably already feels terrible feel even worse.

  • samuel


    September 17th, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    The biggest problem is that we have forgotten how to eat healthy and how to move. It is too easy to run through a driv thru on the way home to pick up dinner, go home and turn on the Tv and do nothing for the rest of the night. This is reason that the obesity epidemic is on the rise and if we don’t so something to change that total mindset of how we eat and how we live, that epidemic is only going to continue to worsen. I have always exercised but I have three kids of my own who would rather poke a fork in their eyes than go for a walk or run with me after dinner. They are so into their games and computers and phones that it is hard to get them unplugged. This is the source of our ills I fear. Everything that we thought would actually advance us could be the very things that in the end will bring us down.

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