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Subclinical Food Addiction Common Among Older Adults, Women Twice as Vulnerable as Men: Expert Interview



"People know what the healthy dietary choices are but so often struggle to implement those in their daily lives," observed primary care physician Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH. Kullgren, who is also director of the National Poll on Healthy Aging, spoke with Patient Care® about recent poll findings that nearly half of US adults aged 50 to 80 years struggle with addictive food behavior. He says he sees the problem routinely in daily practice.

Food addiction researcher Ashley Gearhardt, PhD, partnered with Kullgren's team on the survey. Among the results that suprised her, 13% of respondents met the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of addiction to highly processed foods - a value that "matches or surpasses the prevalance of addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and other easily accessible addictive substances."

Another surprise was the size of the gap between genders, with women showing almost double the rate of food addiction vs men. More findings follow.

More from the Patient Care conversation with Drs Gearhardt and Kullgren:

One in 8 Older US Adults Meets Criteria for Food Addiction: Experts Explain

When is a Nacho Like Cocaine? Author of the Yale Food Addiction Scale Explains

Highly Processed Food is Produced to Be as Rewarding as Humanly Possible, Says Food Addiction Expert

Gearhardt's lab at the University of Michigan (U-M) teamed with the National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and under the direction of Jeffery Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH, to look more closely at a population rarely included in research on food addiction. The National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA) surveys are fielded twice per year using a sample of approximately 2,000 respondents aged 50 to 80 years drawn from a nationally representative probability-based panel of U.S. households. The NPHA is supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M's academic medical center, in Ann Arbor.

For more information:

Food and Addiction Science and Treatment Lab (Dr Gearhardt's lab)

The Yale Food Addiction Scale

The National Poll on Healthy Aging

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