The emerging concept of food addiction: are we ready to treat food as a drug?
The term food addiction was first introduced into scientific literature in 1956 by Theron Randolph, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that investigators began to sistematically examine and define this concept. The most obvious way to conceptualize it is to compare it to the DSM criteria for substance use disorders (SUD). In fact, in 2009, Gearhardt et al. developed the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS), a 25-item instrument based on the substance dependence criteria of the DSM-IV, most recently updated according to DSM-5 (YFAS Version 2.0.). The validity of this concept remains controversial and evokes polarized positions: do people get addicted to specific substances in food – as in a SUD – or do they rather get addicted to eating – as in a behaviour addiction, like gambling disorder? What are the neurobiological and genetic mechanisms that overlap in food and drug addiction? Should we adopt an addiction perspective on eating disorders and obesity? To what extent does addiction-like eating behaviour overlap with binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and obesity?
Review the recent findings and perpectives on the concept of food addiction.
A PubMed search of English-language publications (January1, 2014–January31, 2019) was conducted using the term food addicion. Relevant articles known to the authors were also included.
Driven by the obesity epidemic, food addiction as a model has been subject of considerable debate in recent years. No clear consensus has yet emerged on the validity of the concept of food addiction. Either way, adopting an addiction perspective on eating disorders and obesity may have practical implications on prevention and treatment of these disorders, and may provide promising avenues for future research.