The Food Addiction Institute compiles research publications that help to identify and expand knowledge about food addiction as a disease of substance abuse and as a treatable disorder.
The following research publications include a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) link that is assigned by the publisher when the article is published. It is a unique identifier of where an article is located on the internet. Please note that some publications may require you to purchase or create an online account to the website that houses the publication. However, in some instances, you may also be able to insert the entire citation we provided into your search browser to find a free, downloadable copy. We consider it important to make information available about useful articles even if they cannot be accessed free of charge. And note that many public and professional school libraries have subscriptions to expensive journals that you can read onsite.
Schulte, E. M., & Gearhardt, A. N. (2018) | Associations of Food Addiction in a Sample Recruited to Be Nationally Representative of the United States | European Eating Disorders Review, 26(2), 112-119
Food Addiction Research Needs
Since 1994, there have been thousands of peer reviewed scientific articles and books establishing food addiction as a distinct medical condition. Still, the DSM5 (the most recent “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” of the American Psychiatric Association), does not yet fully embrace the status of addiction to food as a designated substance use disorder (their language for an addiction). However, it does state in an appendix describing emerging areas of interest that many with eating disorders also have characteristics of a substance use disorder, including and most especially, the characteristics of physical craving and loss of control. At the same time, recognition of food addiction as a distinct condition has been enthusiastically embraced by the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM). In a recent statement, ASAM clearly describes food addiction as a scientifically validated member of the brain disease family of conditions to which all addictions, in their view, rightfully belong. Nevertheless, while there is now substantial evidence supporting the status of food addiction as a distinct condition, there is still a great deal more to be learned about the precise nature of this disease and what distinguishes it from other conditions with similar and/or overlapping symptoms.
Research is sorely needed in two additional areas, epidemiology and clinical outcomes.
Substantial studies have not yet been undertaken to determine how many food addicts there are in the USA or in other nations. There have only been some limited unpublished research efforts and estimates by experts. Much larger investigations need to be conducted by the CDC and/or other neutral parties. These should seek to carefully distinguish between those in various stages of food addiction, as has been done with levels of overweight and obesity. And special attention should be paid to identifying the prevalence of childhood food addiction.
Research concerning the clinical outcomes of different modalities of food addiction treatment should be considered a very high priority.
There have been serious self-studies undertaken by several of the food related 12 Step fellowships and by professional treatment programs using the addiction model. But these need to be followed up with long-term studies of outcomes by outside, independent researchers. Meticulously crafted, detailed case studies describing clinical best practices in contexts where substantial rates of sustained recovery have been documented need to be conducted. And qualitative research needs to be undertaken on such key issues as challenging denial in food addiction. As new modalities of treatment for food addiction are being introduced, there is a need for comparative studies with existing forms of food addiction treatment and with treatment of other addictions.
With any new research focused on food addiction, it is important to have clear and comparable definitions of such terms as food abstinence, withdrawal and cravings.
This is not easy, as different food plans work for different people. And there is a need to do research concerning all the food substances established as addictive, not just sugar but also excess fat, flour and grains, salt, and artificial sweeteners, etc. Furthermore, it must be noted that there is currently a great deal of variation in the delivery of peer support and professional treatment. Some of that variation is warranted and appropriate in its responsiveness to individual patient/client differences. However, a reasonable amount of standardization is also required if evidence concerning the effectiveness of newly emerging care protocols is to have any scientific credibility and if effective protocols are to be faithfully replicated and successfully spread. A balance must be struck with respect to these concerns.There has been a small bit of initial research on teaching physicians about food addiction. And there is a good deal of interest in comparing food addiction treatment with treatment of obesity and eating disorders.
As there begin to be more public policy initiatives regarding obesity, it is especially important to follow the impact of measures which eliminate or attempt to reduce use of possibly addictive food substances, e.g., elimination of sugar drinks in schools, sugar taxes, and wider policies of elimination of addictive foods in local institutions.
In these studies, it is important to have ways to distinguish the effect on food addicts verses the effect on “normal eaters.”