Background

There is a paucity of literature on qualities associated with food addiction (FA) in youth seeking weight management treatment. FA alone has been associated with deficits in executive function (EF) in adults but little is known about baseline behavioral characteristics associated with the phenotype of FA in adolescents. The aims of this study were to examine the association between deficits in EF, depressive symptoms, stress level, and binge eating with FA measured by the Yale Food Addiction Scale for children (YFAS-c) and intervention adherence in a sample of racially diverse adolescents with obesity seeking weight management treatment.

Methods

A consecutive series of 36 adolescents completed a battery of self-report measures including the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-2 (BRIEF-2) and YFAS-c. Descriptive statistics and associations between those meeting criteria for FA on the YFAS-c and study variables were performed and further examined with Fisher’s exact test. Baseline differences were compared between those meeting criteria for FA to those who did not (two sample t-test and ranksum test).

Results

On the YFAS-c, 20% of subjects met criteria for FA.Sixty-four percent reported difficulties in at least one EF domain. Youth meeting criteria for FA were more likely to have deficits in EF and reported higher levels of stress, depressive symptoms and binge eating (all p<0.05). There was no difference in baseline BMI z-score or intervention adherence between youth meeting criteria for FA to those who did not (p>0.5).

Conclusions

Adolescents with FA who are seeking weight management treatment have a different behavioral phenotype than those without FA. Therefore more specific targeted assessment and behavioral support may be required to achieve success in a weight loss intervention in this high risk population.