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Eat Behav. 2014 Aug;15(3):427-33. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.05.001. Epub 2014 May 27.

The association of "food addiction" with disordered eating and body mass index.

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Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 2268 East Hall, 530 Church St., Ann Arbor, MI, 48103. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, Yale University, 2 Hillhouse Ave., New Haven, CT, 06511.
Department of Psychology, Yale University, 2 Hillhouse Ave., New Haven, CT, 06511; Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 300 George St., New Haven, CT, 06511; Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College St., New Haven, CT, 06511.



The contribution of an addictive process to elevated body mass index (BMI) and disordered eating is an area of growing interest. Yet, little is known about how "food addiction" may be related to disordered eating and obesity. The ability of addictive-like eating to account for eating pathology not captured by traditional eating disorders is unknown. No prior research has examined the association of "food addiction" with bulimia nervosa (BN). Finally, little is understood about the association of "food addiction" with patterns of dieting and weight gain. The current study was conducted to address these gaps in the literature.


Participants (N=815) were recruited from online advertisements nationwide and completed measures related to "food addiction", BMI, weight history, and disordered eating.


Addictive-like eating was associated with elevated current and lifetime highest BMI, weight cycling, and eating pathology. The prevalence of "food addiction" was higher in participants with BN than in those with binge eating disorder (BED). "Food addiction" continued to be related to clinically relevant variables, especially elevated BMI, even when participants did not meet criteria for BED or BN. The co-occurrence of "food addiction" with eating disorders appears to be associated with a more severe variant of eating pathology.


An addictive-type response to highly palatable food may be contributing to eating-related problems, including obesity and eating disorders. BN relative to BED appears to be more strongly associated with "food addiction." Additionally, the concept of "food addiction" appears to capture clinically relevant information in participants who do not meet criteria for either BN or BED. Further examination of "food addiction" may be important in understanding the mechanisms underlying certain types of problematic eating behavior.


Binge eating; Bulimia nervosa; Eating disorders; Food addiction; Obesity

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