Background: Obesity is a global epidemic and it has been suggested that an addiction to certain foods could be a factor contributing to overeating and subsequent obesity. The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) was developed in 2009 to specifically assess food addiction. Given that food addiction is a rapidly growing area of research, it is timely to review how the YFAS tool has been applied in research. This review aimed to determine the prevalence of food addiction diagnosis and symptom scores, as assessed by the YFAS.
Methods: Published studies from 2009 to July 2014 were retrieved and included if they reported YFAS outcomes including food addiction diagnosis or symptom score and were published in the English language.
Results: Twenty-five studies were identified with 88% of studies cross-sectional in nature and only one study assessing YFAS outcomes at more than one time point. Samples were predominantly female (15 studies >70% female) with a mean BMI in the overweight/obese category (60%) and age ranged from 4-90 years. Using meta-analysis, the weighted mean prevalence of YFAS food addiction diagnosis was 19.9% across studies, ranging from 5.4% to 56.7%. Food addiction was higher in adults aged >35 years (22.0%) compared to younger adults 18-35 years (17.0%). Only one study investigated food addiction in children. Food addiction diagnosis was twice as high in females compared to males (12.2% and 6.4%, respectively) and overweight/obese compared to healthy weight participants (26.9% and 14.3%, respectively). Food addiction diagnosis was three-fold higher in disordered eating samples comprised of individuals with binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa compared to non-clinical counterparts (16.2% and 57.6%, respectively).
Conclusion: Further research is required to explore YFAS outcomes across a broader spectrum of ages, other types of eating disorders and at multiple time points to confirm the efficacy of the tool to assess for the presence of food addiction.