Objective: Child abuse appears to increase obesity risk in adulthood, but the mechanisms are unclear. This study examined the association between child abuse victimization and food addiction, a measure of stress-related overeating, in 57,321 adult participants in the Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII).
Design and methods: The NHSII ascertained physical and sexual child abuse histories in 2001 and current food addiction in 2009. Food addiction was defined as ≥3 clinically significant symptoms on a modified version of the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Confounder-adjusted risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using modified Poisson regression.
Results: Over 8% of the sample reported severe physical abuse in childhood, while 5.3% reported severe sexual abuse. Eight percent met the criteria for food addiction. Women with food addiction were 6 U of BMI heavier than women without food addiction. Severe physical and severe sexual abuse were associated with roughly 90% increases in food addiction risk (physical abuse RR = 1.92; 95% CI: 1.76, 2.09; sexual abuse RR = 1.87; 95% CI: 1.69, 2.05). The RR for combined severe physical abuse and sexual abuse was 2.40 (95% CI: 2.16, 2.67).
Conclusions: A history of child abuse is strongly associated with food addiction in this population.
Copyright © 2013 The Obesity Society.