Does food addiction exist in the young Australian adult population? — ASN Events

Does food addiction exist in the young Australian adult population? (#41)

Kirrilly Pursey 1 , Tracy Burrows 1 , Clare Collins 1 , Peter Stanwell 1
  1. University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

While no definition exists for food addiction, the suggestion that an addiction to specific foods could be a contributing factor to the rise in obesity levels prevalence is gaining support. Currently, food addiction as a stand-alone phenomenon is not strongly supported in scientific literature. Emerging evidence suggests that obesity may be a form of substance dependence, sharing similar clinical characteristics with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) diagnostic criteria for substance dependence such as tolerance and withdrawal.

This study aimed to determine if characteristics associated with potential food addiction exist in the Australian young adult population. An online survey including demographic characteristics and the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) was distributed via a media release and social networking sites to young Australian adults from March-May 2013. The YFAS includes 27 items with responses to questions for seven characteristics associated with food addiction scored as present/not present. Respondents were excluded if they were pregnant or not currently living in Australia.

A total of 669 respondents (age range 18-35 years, 73.8% female, mean BMI 23.3±4.6kg/m2, 64% healthy weight range) participated in the survey. 95.8% of respondents displayed at least one characteristic associated with food addiction and 19.7% displayed all 7 characteristics, while only 4.2% did not display any characteristics. The most commonly reported YFAS characteristic was persistent desire for or unsuccessful attempts to cut down food (93.7%) followed by the continual consumption of food despite knowledge of adverse consequences including obesity (52.0%). A significant positive relationship was found whereby as BMI increased, so did number of YFAS symptoms (p<0.001).

Characteristics associated with food addiction were highly prevalent among the young Australian adult respondents. Further investigation is required to determine if food addiction scores are related to specific foods or anthropometric measures.