Food addiction, eating addiction and eating disorders

Proc Nutr Soc. 2020 Feb;79(1):103-112. doi: 10.1017/S0029665119001162. Epub 2019 Nov 20.


The concept of food addiction is currently a highly debated subject within both the general public and the scientific communities. The term food addiction suggests that individuals may experience addictive-like responses to food, similar to those seen with classic substances of abuse. An increasing number of studies have established the prevalence and correlates of food addiction. Moreover, food addiction may be associated with obesity and disordered eating. Thus, intervening on food addiction may be helpful in the prevention and therapy of obesity and eating disorders. However, controversy exists about if this phenomenon is best defined through paradigms reflective of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) substance-related disorders (e.g. food addiction) or non-substance-related disorders (e.g. eating addiction) criteria. This review paper will give a brief summarisation of the current state of research on food addiction, a more precise definition of its classification, its differentiation from eating addiction and an overview on potential overlaps with eating disorders. Based on this review, there is evidence that food addiction may represent a distinct phenomenon from established eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder. Future studies are needed to further examine and establish orthogonal diagnostic criteria specific to food addiction. Such criteria must differentiate the patterns of eating and symptoms that may be similar to those of eating disorders to further characterise food addiction and develop therapy options. To date, it is too premature to draw conclusions about the clinical significance of the concept of food addiction.

Keywords: DSM-5; Eating addiction; Eating disorders; Food addiction; YFAS 2·0.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Child
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Female
  • Food Addiction*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Young Adult