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What Is the Evidence for “Food Addiction?” A Systematic Review

Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Florida, 1225 Center Drive, Gainesville, FL 32603, USA
Center for Addiction Research and Education, Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida, 1149 Newell Drive, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2018, 10(4), 477;
Received: 10 March 2018 / Revised: 26 March 2018 / Accepted: 6 April 2018 / Published: 12 April 2018
The diagnostic construct of “food addiction” is a highly controversial subject. The current systematic review is the first to evaluate empirical studies examining the construct of “food addiction” in humans and animals. Studies were included if they were quantitative, peer-reviewed, and in the English language. The 52 identified studies (35 articles) were qualitatively assessed to determine the extent to which their findings indicated the following addiction characteristics in relation to food: brain reward dysfunction, preoccupation, risky use, impaired control, tolerance/withdrawal, social impairment, chronicity, and relapse. Each pre-defined criterion was supported by at least one study. Brain reward dysfunction and impaired control were supported by the largest number of studies (n = 21 and n = 12, respectively); whereas risky use was supported by the fewest (n = 1). Overall, findings support food addiction as a unique construct consistent with criteria for other substance use disorder diagnoses. The evidence further suggests that certain foods, particularly processed foods with added sweeteners and fats, demonstrate the greatest addictive potential. Though both behavioral and substance-related factors are implicated in the addictive process, symptoms appear to better fit criteria for substance use disorder than behavioral addiction. Future research should explore social/role impairment, preoccupation, and risky use associated with food addiction and evaluate potential interventions for prevention and treatment. View Full-Text
Keywords: food addiction; eating behavior; process addiction; systematic review food addiction; eating behavior; process addiction; systematic review
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MDPI and ACS Style

Gordon, E.L.; Ariel-Donges, A.H.; Bauman, V.; Merlo, L.J. What Is the Evidence for “Food Addiction?” A Systematic Review. Nutrients 2018, 10, 477.

AMA Style

Gordon EL, Ariel-Donges AH, Bauman V, Merlo LJ. What Is the Evidence for “Food Addiction?” A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2018; 10(4):477.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gordon, Eliza L., Aviva H. Ariel-Donges, Viviana Bauman, and Lisa J. Merlo 2018. "What Is the Evidence for “Food Addiction?” A Systematic Review" Nutrients 10, no. 4: 477.

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