Worker Health and Wellness Home and Community Safety & Health Wellness Nutrition Older adults Articles mentioned in FSH Instagram posts

Survey explores addiction to highly processed foods


Photo: supersizer/iStockphoto

Folks over 50: Have you ever joked that you’re “addicted” to a certain salty snack or type of candy? Researchers say results of their recent survey show that addiction to highly processed foods such as chips, candy and soda may be a very real thing.

The University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation commissioned an online survey of nearly 2,200 people 50 to 80 years old to learn about their relationship with foods that have high levels of sugar, salt or fat added to them during processing. These include chips and other salty snacks, candy, baked goods, sugary drinks, and fast food.

A series of 13 questions was used to measure whether – and how often – the people experienced the core indicators of addiction to highly processed foods. Indicators included intense cravings, an inability to cut back on eating and signs of withdrawal.

To meet the criteria for addiction, the respondents had to experience at least two of the 11 core indicators, as well as “significant eating-related distress or life problems multiple times a week.”

The percentage of people who met the criteria for addiction was greater among people ages 50-64 (17). Other factors that drove addiction percentages above average were poor to fair physical health, poor to fair mental health, being overweight and feelings of isolation.

“Just as with smoking or drinking, we need to identify and reach out to those who have entered unhealthy patterns of use and support them in developing a healthier relationship with food,” said Ashley Gearhardt, a U-M psychologist.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)