Food addiction in a large community sample of Canadian adults: prevalence and relationship with obesity, body composition, quality of life and impulsivity
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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Parallels between the persistent overconsumption of food and addictive drugs have given rise to the notion of food addiction. In a large community sample of Canadian adults, the current study examined the prevalence of food addiction and its relationship with obesity, quality of life and multiple indicators of impulsivity. A secondary goal was to analyze differences between obese and non-obese individuals with and without food addiction. DESIGN: Cross-sectional in-person assessment. SETTING: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 1432 community adults (age = mean ± standard deviation = 38.93 ± 13.7; 42% male) recruited from the general community using print, bus and internet advertisements. MEASUREMENTS: Yale Food Addiction Scale 2.0, anthropometrics (including body mass index), body composition (e.g. body fat, muscle mass, body water), World Health Organization Quality of Life scale and impulsivity measures, including impulsive personality traits, delay discounting and behavioral inhibition. FINDINGS: The prevalence of food addiction was 9.3% and substantially below that of obesity (32.7%), although food addiction was significantly more common among obese individuals (18.5%, P < 0.001). Food addiction was associated with significantly lower quality of life in all domains (βs = -0.21 to -0.34, Ps < 0.001) and significantly higher impulsive personality traits, particularly negative and positive urgency (βs = 0.37 and 0.30, Ps < 0.001). Subgroup contrasts within both the obese and non-obese strata revealed that food addiction was associated with significantly lower quality of life in all domains (Ps < 0.001). Food addiction among non-obese individuals was also associated with higher body mass index (P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: In a general community sample, food addiction was present in slightly fewer than one in 10 individuals, approximately one-third the prevalence of obesity, but with twice the prevalence among obese individuals. Food addiction appears to be associated with substantively lower quality of life and elevations in impulsivity, particularly in deficits in emotional regulation.
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