Exploration of food addiction in pediatric patients: A preliminary investigation (2009))

J Addict Med. 2009 Mar;3(1):26-32. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31819638b0.

Merlo LJ1, Klingman C, Malasanos TH, Silverstein JH.



The goals of the present study were to explore the possibility that symptoms of food addiction may exist for some children and to identify factors that may be associated with pediatric food addiction.


Participants were 50 children (aged 8-19), recruited from the Pediatric Lipid Clinic at a large southeastern teaching hospital, and their parent/guardian. Participants completed questionnaires to assess food- and eating-related attitudes and behaviors, as well as symptoms of food addiction.


Parent- and child-reported behaviors and attitudes demonstrated similar patterns. Child BMI ratings were significantly correlated with overeating (r = .42, p = .02) and emotional eating (r = .33, p = .04). Of note, 15.2% of children indicated that they “Often,” “Usually,” or “Always” think that they are addicted to food, and an additional 17.4% reported that they “Sometimes” feel that way. Food addiction symptoms were significantly correlated with child overeating (r = .64, p < .001), uncontrolled eating (r = .60, p < .001), emotionol eating (r = .62, p < .001), food preoccupation (r = .58, p < .001), overconcern with body size (r = .54, p < .001), and caloric awareness and control (r = -.31, p = .04).


Results of the present study suggest that “food addiction” may be a real problem for a subset of children who suffer from overweight/obesity. Identification of food addiction may improve obesity treatment efforts for this subset of patients.