Food addiction comorbid to mental disorders in adolescents: a nationwide survey and register-based study

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  • Christina Horsager, Aalborg Psychiatric University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark Department of Clinical Medicine, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Emil Færk, Aalborg Psychiatric University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark Department of Clinical Medicine, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Ashley N Gearhardt, Univ Michigan, University of Michigan, University of Michigan System, Pediat Genet
  • ,
  • Marlene Briciet Lauritsen, University of Copenhagen, Aalborg Psychiatric University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark Department of Clinical Medicine, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark., Department of Clinical Medicine - Department of Clinical Epidemiology
  • ,
  • Søren Dinesen Østergaard

PURPOSE: Adolescence is a high-risk period for development of addictive behavior. This may also apply to addiction-like eating of highly processed foods-commonly referred to as "food addiction". Adolescents with mental disorder may be at particularly elevated risk of developing food addiction as addiction often accompanies mental disorder. However, there are only few studies in adolescents investigating this potential comorbidity. Therefore, the primary aim of this study was to examine the food addiction symptom load, as measured by the dimensional Yale Food Addiction Scale for Children-version 2.0 (dYFAS-C 2.0), among adolescents with a clinically verified mental disorder.

METHOD: A total of 3529 adolescents aged 13-17 were drawn from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register, stratified on six major diagnostic categories of mental disorders; psychotic disorders, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and attention deficit disorders. Via their parents, these adolescents were invited to participate in a web-based survey. Data on health and socioeconomic factors from the Danish registers were linked to both respondents and non-respondents, allowing for thorough attrition analysis and estimation of weighted dYFAS-C 2.0 scores.

RESULTS: A total of 423 adolescents participated in the survey (response rate 12.0%). The mean weighted dYFAS-C 2.0 total score was 13.9 (95% CI 12.6; 14.9) for the entire sample and varied substantially across the diagnostic categories being highest for those with psychotic disorder, mean 18.4 (95% CI 14.6; 14.9), and affective disorders, mean 19.4. (95% CI 16.3; 22.5). Furthermore, the dYFAS-C 2.0 total score was positively correlated with body mass index (BMI) (r = 0.33, p < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Food addiction symptomatology seems to be prevalent among adolescents with mental disorder, particularly affective and psychotic disorders. As obesity is a tremendous problem in individuals with mental disorder further investigation of food addiction in young people with mental disorder is called for. This could potentially aid in the identification of potential transdiagnostic targets for prevention and treatment of obesity in this group.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IV, Observational cross-sectional descriptive study combined with retrospective register data.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEating and Weight Disorders
ISSN1124-4909
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jun 2021

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