Public views on food addiction and obesity: implications for policy and treatment.


Journal Article

According to their advocates, neurobiological explanations of overeating, or "food addiction", have the potential to impact public understanding and treatment of obesity. In this study, we examine the public's acceptance of the concept of food addiction as an explanation of overeating and assess its effects upon their attitudes toward obese persons and the treatment of obesity.We conducted an online survey of 479 adults from the US (n = 215) and Australia (n = 264). There was substantial support for the idea of food addiction, particularly among obese participants. Over half favoured treating obesity as a type of addiction. Psychotherapy was believed to be the most effective treatment and educational and support programs were the preferred policies to address food addiction. There was very little support for increasing taxes on obesogenic foods. Despite the strong support for seeing obesity as a form of addiction, respondents still saw obesity as primarily the result of personal choices and emphasized the need for individuals to take responsibility for their eating.Our sample of the general public strongly supported the idea of obesity as a form of food addiction; but this did not translate into support of clinical and public health policies that experts believe are most likely to reduce the prevalence of obesity. The reasons for the apparent disjunction between support for food addiction and a strong emphasis on personal choice for weight warrant further examination.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Lee, NM; Lucke, J; Hall, WD; Meurk, C; Boyle, FM; Carter, A

Published Date

  • January 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 9

Start / End Page

  • e74836 -

PubMed ID

  • 24086382

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24086382

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0074836


  • eng