Ethical, Stigma, and Policy Implications of Food Addiction: A Scoping Review (2019)

Nutrients. 2019 Mar 27;11(4). pii: E710. doi: 10.3390/nu11040710.

Cassin SE1,2,3, Buchman DZ4,5,6, Leung SE7,8, Kantarovich K9,10, Hawa A11, Carter A12,13, Sockalingam S14,15,16,17.


The concept of food addiction has generated much controversy. In comparison to research examining the construct of food addiction and its validity, relatively little research has examined the broader implications of food addiction. The purpose of the current scoping review was to examine the potential ethical, stigma, and health policy implications of food addiction. Major themes were identified in the literature, and extensive overlap was identified between several of the themes. Ethics sub-themes related primarily to individual responsibility and included: (i) personal control, will power, and choice; and (ii) blame and weight bias. Stigma sub-themes included: (i) the impact on self-stigma and stigma from others, (ii) the differential impact of substance use disorder versus behavioral addiction on stigma, and (iii) the additive stigma of addiction plus obesity and/or eating disorder. Policy implications were broadly derived from comparisons to the tobacco industry and focused on addictive foods as opposed to food addiction. This scoping review underscored the need for increased awareness of food addiction and the role of the food industry, empirical research to identify specific hyperpalatable food substances, and policy interventions that are not simply extrapolated from tobacco.

KEYWORDS: ethics; food addiction; health policy; stigma

PMID: 30934743