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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