Behavioral components of food addiction include impulsive and compulsive behaviors. Moreover, gaining control over negative feelings and acquiring stimulus control are important for coping with compulsive eating. These behaviors may be treated with therapies that are aimed at reducing impulsivity.
Several studies have sought to investigate the biological mechanisms involved in addictive behavior. In particular, obesity is associated with reduced striatal dopamine receptors. In addition, pictures of high-calorie foods elicit deactivated frontal regions. In cases of food addiction, these cues increase dopamine secretion from mesolimbic centers. The dopaminergic effect also enhances reuse behavior.
There is considerable controversy regarding the conceptualization of food addiction. Many groups argue that eating behavior should be considered physiological rather than an addiction. However, food addiction is an addictive pattern of eating that is displayed in a wide range of ED patients. Using a scale to identify food addiction, a study explored the phenotypic characterization of this behavioral disorder. Specifically, it compared the behaviors of individuals with binge-eating disorder (BED) and food addiction (FA) with those of individuals without these disorders.
The FA group reported significantly higher BDI scores than the control group. The FA group also showed significantly lower BSCS scores. The results of this study suggest that the presence of BED or FA is associated with a higher risk of psychopathology. It is suggested that targeted interventions may be needed to alleviate the distress of comorbid BED and FA.
The study used an online convenience sample of community volunteers to compare the symptoms of BED and FA. Most of the participants were female (83.2%). Their mean age and body mass index were 38 and 33.6 kg/m2, respectively. They were single and had a secondary education.
The most common eating-related measures were overweight and obesity. Overall, the differences between the treatment-seeking and control groups were not large. Nonetheless, the results suggest that both binge-eating and FA are common in the overweight/obese population. The percentage of overweight or obese participants who met the criteria for FA was significantly higher than the percentage of those who met the criteria for BED. Similarly, the FA group had significantly higher EDE-Q Restraint and BDI scores than the control group. In addition, the FA group had significantly lower EDE-Q Global and BSCS scores than the control group.
The findings suggest that the presence of a food addiction or a binge-eating disorder is associated with a higher risk of psychopathology. Therefore, reducing impulsivity and increasing inhibitory control are goals of therapy for FA.
The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) is a 25-item scale administered by the client. It was adapted for use in children and adolescents. The scale was validated in 2011 by Bayraktar et al. The reliability of the scale was found to be 0.92. The scale was rated as a gold standard in the field of food addiction measurement. The YFAS produces two measurements: a continuous symptom count score and a food addiction threshold. The YFAS consists of items related to food craving, withdrawal tolerance, emotional results from eating, and continuing use of negative consequences.
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