Background: It has been suggested that addiction to specific foods, particularly energy-dense, hyperpalatable foods, could contribute to overeating and subsequent obesity. However, no studies have assessed what foods are potentially associated with food addiction (FA).
Methods: This study aimed to identify if specific foods were associated with FA diagnosis assessed by the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS). A 178-item online survey comprised of demographics, the YFAS and the Australian Eating Survey (AES), a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) that assesses dietary intake over the previous six months, was distributed to Australians aged 18-35 years via social networking sites. YFAS is a 27-item validated tool which maps the substance dependence diagnostic criteria to be applicable to eating behaviour. Participants receive an FA symptom score and potential diagnosis of FA (≥3 symptoms+clinical impairment).
Results: A total 462 predominantly female (86%), healthy weight (72.9%, mean BMI 23.2±4.5kg/m2) individuals completed the survey. Twenty-eight participants (6.1%) met the diagnostic cut-offs for FA. Mean energy intake was 8399±2595kJ/day and did not differ by FA diagnosis. Individuals classified as food addicted had lower proportions of energy intake (%E) from protein (mean difference=-1.8%, p=0.04) and a significantly higher proportion from total fat (mean difference=1.9%, p=0.02) and saturated fat (mean difference=1.1%, p=0.04). Those who were food addicted had a lower %E from grains (p=0.005) and breakfast cereals (p=0.002), and a higher %E from confectionary (p=0.04) and discretionary foods (p=0.046). Significant positive correlations were identified between FA symptom scores and %E from confectionary, takeaway foods, and savoury packaged snacks, while negative correlations were found between FA symptom scores and %E from grains, breakfast cereals, dairy and fruit.
Conclusions: This study provides novel data that individuals with addictive-like eating behaviours consumed a greater proportion of energy from energy-dense, processed, packaged foods. Further examination of the relationship between FA, specific foods and obesity is warranted.