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Food Addiction: A Barrier for Effective Weight Management for Obese Adolescents

Tompkins, Connie L., Laurent, Jennifer, Brock, David W.
Childhood obesity 2017 v.13 no.6 pp. 462-469
adolescents, adults, childhood obesity, children, descriptive statistics, eating disorders, quality of life, regression analysis, screening, t-test, weight control programs, weight loss
Background: Findings from studies of food addiction in adults suggest those with food addiction are less successful in weight-loss interventions. Little is known about food addiction in obesity treatment-seeking adolescents; therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the prevalence of food addiction and correlates of food addiction symptoms in obese adolescents entering an outpatient, weight management program.Methods: Obese adolescents (n = 26) were administered the Yale Food Addiction Scale for Children (YFAS-C), measures of appetitive responsiveness, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) before and following a 12-week, outpatient, behavioral weight management program. Descriptive statistics and correlations between YFAS-C symptoms and study variables were performed and further examined with linear regression. Baseline differences were compared between those meeting criteria for food addiction to those who did not (independent t-tests) and pre–postweight management program changes were examined (paired t-tests).Results: 30.7% met criteria for food addiction and 50% reported ≥3 symptoms. Number of YFAS-C symptoms was correlated with appetitive responsiveness (r = 0.57, p < 0.05) and inversely correlated with all domains of HRQOL (r = 0.47–0.53, p < 0.05). Attrition rate was higher in adolescents with food addiction compared to those without (62.5% vs. 44.4%, p < 0.05).Conclusions: Adolescents with food addiction or with a higher number of food addiction symptoms may warrant additional resources to support adherence to and retention with a weight management program. Implementing screening measures for food addiction before enrolling in a weight management program may be an effective strategy to identify adolescents who may benefit from adjunct modalities.