Childhood Abuse Linked To Food Addiction In Adults

Child abuse survivors have a greater risk of food addiction than women who didn’t experience sexual or physical abuse in childhood. That’s the result of a new study carried out on over 57,000 adults in the Nurses’ Health Study II by Dr. Susan Mason and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

The researchers published their results in the journal Obesity. As you might expect, the women in the study who had a food addiction were also heavier on average than other women.

The researchers defined food addiction as “three or more addiction-like eating behaviors severe enough to cause significant distress or loss of function.” They noted in their statement that binging on foods high in fat and/or sugar is one way that women often cope with severe stress, which is why they wanted to see if there was a link between childhood abuse and adult food addiction in the first place.

The numbers uncovered by Mason and her team were shocking. Eight percent of the women in the study had food addictions, making it an extremely common problem among all women.

However, women who had undergone physical or sexual abuse as children under age 18 had almost double the risk of a developing a food addiction. Women who experienced both forms of abuse had the highest risk of food addiction of all. The researcher’s statement summed up:

“The food addiction prevalence varied from six percent among women without a history of physical or sexual abuse to 16 percent among women with a history of both severe physical and sexual abuse.”

Dr. Mason said that, in an ideal world, of course, we would prevent the problem by preventing all abuse of children. However, in an imperfect world, childhood abuse survivors may need extra help to fight food addictions and unhealthy binges.

[addictive-looking cupcakes photo by Katjaskupcakes via Wikimedia Commons]