Food Addiction Study Raises Big Concerns for Women

Set down the chips and listen up: A new report recently released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition may help lay the long debated controversy around food addiction to rest. The report indicated that nearly six percent of female study participants met the criteria for food addiction. As obesity rates continue to skyrocket and public health experts worry about the threat excess weight can pose to the public, the study raises some big concerns around the prevalence of food addiction in women.

The study, which took 134,175 female participants through a modified Yale Food Addiction Scale, found that nearly six percent of those surveyed met the criteria for food addiction. Whereas about three percent of women between the ages of 66 and 88 showed prevalence toward food addiction, over eight percent of women aged 45 to 64 met the food addiction scale’s criteria.

“The results may provide insight into the strong association between behavioral attributes of food consumption and the development of obesity,” the study’s authors reported. These findings are also leading some addiction specialists to believe that addictive patterns develop more quickly in younger women, especially single women who used to smoke.

As Today reports, the increased prevalence of food addiction found in younger, single, non-smoking women may not be that surprising to researchers after all. Today shared that some experts believe former smokers may have a tendency to trade one addiction for another – a process researchers refer to as “addiction transference.”

A similar food addiction study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 indicated that food containing high-glycemic index carbohydrates (like potatoes, white bread, and rice) not only triggered increased hunger in study participants but also stimulated regions in the brain associated with craving and reward – the same brain regions that light up in those struggling with substance addiction.

Additionally, in 2009, Science Direct published an article that cautioned readers against the startling similarities between drug addiction and compulsive overeating. The authors urged experts to consider treatment methodologies “that recognize the similarities between treating drug dependence and compulsive overeating.”

The similar findings of these food addiction studies raise some big concerns for women who may be struggling to lose weight. Health experts are learning that modifying eating behavior over the long term may be more difficult for some women than initially believed, especially those dealing with a deeper addiction issue.

So how can women determine if their love of chips and cookies is really a food addiction in disguise? The Yale Food Addiction Scale can help. The scale, which asks users to rate themselves on a number of specific food-related questions, focuses on habits related to eating specific kinds of foods like sweets, starches, and salty snacks.

Many times folks who struggle to lose weight are viewed as having no willpower when, in fact, they could be dealing with something much more serious. While it may be relatively simple to kick a smoking habit by going cold turkey, people need to eat. This makes treating food addiction very complicated. However, as studies like the one recently conducted continue to raise big concerns for women who may struggle with food addiction, health experts remain positive. Some suggest that recent findings can assist in developing ways to support those struggling with food addiction, instead of simply urging dieters to eat more veggies and get more exercise.

By: Katie Bloomstrom


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1)
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2)
Daily Mail
Science Direct
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity