Research continues to increase our understanding of food addiction as a concept across cultures. Food addiction is a controversial topic but one that is important to continue examining. It is essential to not only consider the concept itself but how we measure this concept across the world.
What is “Food Addiction?”
It is necessary to clarify that the concept of “food addiction” is, thus far, just that – a concept. Food addiction is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-V, and there has not been sufficient empirical evidence to include it as a “Non-Substance Related Disorder.” That said, research indicates there is validity to the theory that one can experience symptoms similar to substance use addiction with food.
In fact, “some of the criteria for addiction to substances have been found with regards to hyper-palatable varieties of food, moving forward the thought that food addiction as a construct has equivalence with substance use disorders .” Neurobiological studies have also determined that there are commonalities in the neural pathways activated in substance use disorders and so-called “food addiction.”
The controversy of this topic pertains to experts’ concerns that one cannot be addicted to something that is necessary for survival, such as food and eating. For now, researchers continue to explore the connections and similarities between food addiction and substance use disorders to gain more information.
The Yale Food Addiction Scale
Few instruments have been created to effectively measure food addiction, with the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) being the most well-known and commonly used . Designed in 2009, the YFAS is the first tool created to measure addictive-like eating behaviors. The survey “includes 25 items and translates the diagnostic criteria for substance dependence as stated in the DSM-IV to relate to the consumption of calorie-dense foods .”
Items measures on the scale include “diminished control over consumption, a persistent desire or repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit, withdrawal, and clinically significant impairment .”
Food Addiction & the YFAS in India
One of the best determinants of a successful instrument is how effectively it measures a construct between cultures. A recent study intended to learn more about food addiction and test the validity of the YFAS completed the survey after translating it to the Hindi language.
The scale learned that approximately 13.3% of those surveyed met the criteria for food addiction, which is lower than previous surveys would indicate . The study also did not determine any relationship between food addiction and age or gender .
Study creators did not that “culturally determined expectations and eating attitudes may influence how options are perceived, appraised and responded to. There is some evidence to suggest that women from India and other Asian countries have less drive for thinness than Western countries .”
Ultimately, more work needs to be done regarding food addiction as a legitimate concept and how it can be measured across cultures.
 Ghosh, T. Et al (2021). An exploratory study of food addiction in Indian youth. Journal of eating disorders, 9:32.
 Unknown (2021). Yale food addiction scale. Food and Addiction Science Treatment Lab. Retrieved from https://fastlab.psych.lsa.umich.edu/yale-food-addiction-scale/
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published April 27, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on April 27, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC