Food Addiction: definition, measurement and prevalence in healthy subjects and in patients with eating disorders

Riv Psichiatr. 2016 Mar-Apr;51(2):60-5. doi: 10.1708/2246.24196.


The construct of “Food Addiction” (FA) has been introduced in the last decades to better understand abnormal eating patterns in obese and overweight people and in patients with Eating Disorders (EDs). Despite a substantial parallelism between drug addiction and FA, there is still no agreement in considering FA an independent ED or a useful convincing concept. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to aggregate available data, in order to increase knowledge about: 1) definition, measurement and general features of FA; 2) prevalence of FA in clinical and non-clinical samples. Available data suggest that FA seems to be a transnosografic construct and exists in all EDs, with higher prevalence in Bulimia Nervosa. Although the discussion on the autonomous diagnosis of FA within EDs remains open, studies have reported that comorbidity between FA and other EDs is associated with worse clinical conditions and symptoms, justifying, as a result, the usefulness of assessing and treating this condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anthropometry
  • Behavior, Addictive* / diagnosis
  • Behavior, Addictive* / diagnostic imaging
  • Behavior, Addictive* / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive* / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Craving
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Reward
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dopamine