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Correlates of food addiction in obese individuals seeking bariatric surgery

Authors

  • A. Meule,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Psychology, Department of Psychology I, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
    2. Hospital for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, LWL University Hospital of the Ruhr University Bochum, Hamm, Germany
    • Address for correspondence: A Meule, Department of Psychology I, University of Würzburg, Marcusstr. 9-11, 97070 Würzburg, Germany. E-mail: adrian.meule@uni-wuerzburg.de

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  • D. Heckel,

    1. Institute of Psychology, Department of Psychology I, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
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  • C. F. Jurowich,

    1. Department of General, Visceral, Vascular and Paediatric Surger, University Hospital of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
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  • C. Vögele,

    1. Institute for Health and Behaviour, Research Unit INSIDE, Université du Luxembourg, Walferdange, Luxembourg
    2. Research Group on Health Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
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  • A. Kübler

    1. Institute of Psychology, Department of Psychology I, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
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Summary

Recent evidence suggests that palatable, high-calorie foods may have an addictive potential. Accordingly, obesity and overconsumption of such foods have been associated with addiction-like eating behaviour. The present study investigated whether individuals with obesity can be classified as food-addicted and which factors would differentiate between food-addicted and non-addicted individuals. We administered the German version of the Yale Food Addiction Scale and other questionnaires to obese individuals seeking bariatric surgery (N = 96). Results showed that 40% of the sample could be diagnosed as food-addicted. Food-addicted individuals reported more frequent food cravings, higher eating disorder psychopathology and more depressive symptoms than the non-addicted group. Age, body mass and gender distribution did not differ between groups. The food addiction group had higher attentional but similar motor and non-planning impulsivity, and had lower scores on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) compared with the non-addicted group. Scores on the AUDIT were associated with impulsivity in the non-addicted group only. We conclude that the prevalence of food addiction is higher in candidates for bariatric surgery compared with the general population and obese individuals not seeking bariatric surgery. A diagnosis of food addiction is associated with higher eating pathology and depression. Moreover, only attentional impulsivity, but not other dimensions of impulsivity, is associated with addictive eating. Finally, food addiction and impulsivity interactively predicted alcohol use, suggesting a crucial role of psychological variables and eating style in determining alcohol consumption in pre-bariatric patients, independent of body mass.

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