One in Eight Older Adults Addicted to Highly Processed Food

Symptoms of addiction more common among women and those who are overweight or in fair, poor health



TUESDAY, Feb. 7, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Nearly half of older adults report at least one symptom of addiction to highly processed food, according to the results of the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging released on Jan. 30.

Ashley Gearhardt, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues analyzed survey results from 2,163 adults (aged 50 to 80 years).

Overall, 13 percent of older adults met criteria for an addiction to highly processed food. Compared with men, women were more than twice as likely to meet criteria for addiction to highly processed food (18 versus 8 percent). Younger adults (aged 50 to 64 years) were also more likely to meet addiction criteria than older adults (17 versus 8 percent). These symptoms were also more common among men (17 percent) and women (34 percent) reporting being overweight versus about the right weight (1 and 4 percent, respectively). Further, men and women who rated their mental health as fair or poor were more than three times more likely to meet food addiction criteria versus older adults reporting excellent, very good, or good mental health (women, 45 versus 15 percent; men, 23 versus 6 percent).

“Screening for an addiction to highly processed food at health care visits (e.g., by administering the Yale Food Addiction Scale) may help to identify older adults who could benefit from additional resources,” the authors write. “Older adults identified as having an addiction to highly processed food or who express concerns about symptoms may benefit from connections to programs that offer nutrition education or provide access to healthy, affordable foods.”

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