Food and Behaviour Research

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Food addiction and associations with mental health symptoms: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Burrows T, Kay-Lambkin F, Pursey K, Skinner J, Dayas C (2018) J Hum Nutr Diet.  2018 Jan 25.  doi: 10.1111/jhn.12532. [Epub ahead of print] 

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The present study systematically reviewed the literature aiming to determine the relationships between food addiction, as measured by the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS), and mental health symptoms.


Nine databases were searched using keywords. Studies were included if they reported: (i) YFAS diagnosis or symptom score and (ii) a mental health outcome, as well as the association between (i) and (ii). In total, 51 studies were included.


Through meta-analysis, the mean prevalence of food addiction diagnosis was 16.2%, with an average of 3.3 (range 2.85-3.92) food addiction symptoms being reported. Subanalyses revealed that the mean number of food addiction symptoms in populations seeking treatment for weight loss was 3.01 (range 2.65-3.37) and this was higher in groups with disordered eating (mean 5.2 3.6-6.7). Significant positive correlations were found between food addiction and binge eating [mean r = 0.602 (0.557-0.643), P < 0.05], depression, anxiety and food addiction [mean r = 0.459 (0.358-0.550), r = 0.483 (0.228-0.676), P < 0.05, respectively].


A significant, positive relationship exists between food addiction and mental health symptoms, although the results of the present study highlight the complexity of this relationship.


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