Body image disturbance partially explains eating-related psychosocial impairment in food addiction

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Background This study aimed to explore the association of food addiction (FA) with eating-related psychosocial impairment and examine the extent to which this association was explained directly by FA symptoms themselves, versus through body image disturbance. Materials and methods Participants (356 university students and 544 crowdsourced adults) completed self-report measures of FA (Yale Food Addiction Scale; YFAS 2.0), psychosocial impairment (Clinical Impairment Assessment; CIA 3.0), and body image disturbance (Eating Disorders Examination Questionnaire; EDE-Q 6.0), and reported their body mass index (BMI) and gender. Results Endorsement of distress and/or impairment on the YFAS corresponded to ratings on the CIA. Structural equation models indicated the relationship between FA and eating-related psychosocial impairment was partially mediated by body image disturbance. The indirect effect of body image disturbance explained more variance in eating-related psychosocial impairment than did YFAS scores themselves. Neither BMI nor gender significantly moderated any direct or indirect pathways from food addiction to psychosocial impairment. Conclusions Food addiction is associated with clinical impairment in men and women across the weight spectrum. A large portion of psychosocial impairment associated with food addiction may be explained by body image disturbance. Due to its role in explaining psychosocial impairment, body image disturbance warrants increased attention in FA research.