Diet quality and eating behaviors of college-attending young adults with food addiction

Rachel A. Wattick, Melissa D. Olfert, Rebecca L. Hagedorn-Hatfield, Makenzie L. Barr, Elizabeth Claydon, Cassie Brode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: College students are heavily influenced by their food environment and are an important population in which to study food addiction. This mixed-methods study aimed to examine diet quality and eating behaviors of college students with food addiction. Methods: Students attending a large university in November 2021 were invited to complete an online survey that measured food addiction, eating styles, eating disorder symptoms, diet quality, and anticipated feelings after eating. Kruskal-Wallis H determined differences between those with and without food addiction in mean scores of quantitative variables. Participants who met the symptom threshold for the presence of food addiction were invited to participate in an interview that elicited more information. Quantitative data was analyzed using JMP Pro Version 16.0 and qualitative data was thematically analyzed using NVIVO Pro Software Version 12.0. Results: Respondents (n = 1645) had a 21.9 % prevalence of food addiction. Individuals with mild food addiction had the highest scores in cognitive restraint. Those with severe food addiction had the highest scores in uncontrolled eating, emotional eating, and eating disorder symptoms. Individuals with food addiction showed significantly higher negative expectancies for healthy and junk food, lower intake of vegetables, higher intakes of added sugars and saturated fat. Interview participants had problems with sweets and carbohydrates most often and described eating until physically ill, eating in response to negative emotions, dissociation while eating, and strong negative feelings after eating. Conclusion: Findings contribute to the understanding of the behaviors, emotions, and perceptions surrounding food by this population, providing potential behaviors and cognitions to target for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101710
JournalEating Behaviors
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is Scientific Article No. 3450 supported by West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station ( #WVA00689 and #WVA00721 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • College-student
  • Eating behavior
  • Food addiction
  • Mixed-methods
  • Qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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