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New Research Suggests Some Middle Aged Women May Be Food Addicts

Posted:  Tuesday, February 04, 2014

While the notion of food addiction is fairly new and remains somewhat controversial, a new study points to a certain population of women who fit a food addict profile. Research published January 22, 2014, online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied food addiction among 134,175 middle-aged and older women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. Slightly more than 8 percent of women aged 45 to 64, and 3 percent of older women, meet the criteria of being addicted to food.

Researchers say, for the first time in a large, US-based population of women, they have documented the pervasiveness of food addiction by using the Yale Food Addiction Scale. [i] The survey asks each participant to rate 27 questions about their eating habits over the past year, such as: I find that when I start eating certain foods, I end up eating much more than planned; and I find myself continuing to consume certain foods even though I am no longer hungry.

The women consumed hyperpalatable foods which are high in sugar, starch, fat, or salt. "When a person eats a hyperpalatable food, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Most people walk away satisfied. But for some the desire to repeat the pleasure is too strong to resist. This chemical produces a feeling of exhilaration or pleasure—the "I've got to have it" feeling," says Kimberly Davidson, author of I'm Beautiful? Why Can't I See It? "We get immediate gratification and find our favorite food hard to give up, which is a good definition of addiction," Davidson added.

Eating disorders remain a private battle for millions of people of all ages. "From a pastoral counselor's perspective" continued Ms. Davidson, "I've seen countless adults, including myself, released from the bondage of food addiction when they add spirituality to their healing plan. I believe those struggling with unhealthy patterns of eating and body image issues will find the new second edition of'I'm Beautiful? Why Can't I See It?' an important resource." She offers a specific 12 week plan, and brings a clear message of hope and restoration. The book is a spiritual and psychological guide to help women break free from food addictions and emotional eating through biblical counseling action steps, Scripture, and personal experiences.

Alan J Flint, Ashley N Gearhardt, William R Corbin, Kelly D Brownell, Alison E Field, and Eric B Rimm
Food addiction scale measurement in 2 cohorts of middle-aged and older women
Am J Clin Nutr 2014

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