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Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Matteo Aloi
,
Marco Tullio Liuzza
,
Marianna Rania
,
Elvira Anna Carbone
,
Renato de Filippis
,
Ashley Nicole Gearhardt
, and
Cristina Segura-Garcia

Abstract

Background and aims

Existing research suggests that food addiction (FA) is associated with binge eating disorder (BED) and obesity, but the clinical significance of this relationship remains unclear. This study aims to investigate the different clinical profiles of FA symptoms among patients who have obesity with/without BED using latent class analysis (LCA).

Methods

307 patients (n = 152 obesity and BED, n = 155 obesity without BED) completed a battery of self-report measures investigating eating psychopathology, depression, emotional dysregulation, alexithymia, schema domains, and FA. LCA and ANOVAs were conducted to identify profiles according to FA symptoms and examine differences between classes.

Results

LCA identified five meaningful classes labeled as the “non-addicted” (40.4%), the “attempters” (20.2%), the “interpersonal problems” (7.2%), the “high-functioning addicted” (19.5%) and the “fully addicted” (12.7%) classes. Patients with BED and obesity appeared overrepresented in the “high-functioning addicted” and “fully addicted” classes; conversely, patients with obesity without BED were most frequently included in the “non-addicted” class. The most significant differences between the “high-functioning addicted” and “fully addicted” classes versus the “non-addicted” class regarded heightened severity of eating and general psychopathology.

Discussion and conclusions

The results bring to light distinct clinical profiles based on FA symptoms. Notably, the "high-functioning addicted" class is particularly intriguing as its members demonstrate physical symptoms of FA (i.e., tolerance and withdrawal) and psychological ones (i.e., craving and consequences) but are not as functionally impaired as the “fully addicted” class. Identifying different profiles according to FA symptoms holds potential value in providing tailored and timely interventions.

Open access