(CBS DETROIT) - A new poll from the University of Michigan found that a number of older Americans are addicted to highly processed foods.
The National Poll on Healthy Aging is based at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and is supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine.
University of Michigan psychologist Ashley Gearhardt and the team used 13 questions that measured whether and how often the adults in this age group experience indicators of addiction to highly processed foods, including sweets, salty snacks, sugary drinks and fast food.
Examples of the indicators include intense cravings and an inability to cut down.
The poll found that 13% of people between 50 and 80 years old show signs of addiction to processed foods and beverages in the past year.
Data shows that the percentage is higher among women than men, especially for women in their 50s and early 60s.
The percentage was also higher in older individuals who say they are overweight, lonely or in poor physical or mental health.
Gearhardt says that the questions they asked in the poll should also be used in screening's at doctors' offices, as it could help diagnose older adults with food addiction.
"The word addiction may seem strong when it comes to food, but research has shown that our brains respond as strongly to highly processed foods, especially those highest in sugar, simple starches and fat, as they do to tobacco, alcohol and other addictive substances," Gearhardt said.
"Just as with smoking or drinking, we need to identify and reach out to those who have entered unhealthy patterns of use and support them in developing a healthier relationship with food."
For an older adult to classify as having a food addiction, they had to have experienced two of the 11 symptoms of addiction related to their intake of highly processed food and report eating-related distress and life problems several times a week.
Here are some findings from the poll:
- 17% of adults aged 50 to 64 and 8% of adults aged 65 to 80
- 22% of women aged 50 to 64 and 18% of women aged 50 to 80
- 32% of women who say their physical health is fair or poor and 14% of men who say the same-more than twice as high as the percentages among those who say their physical health is excellent, very good or good
- 45% of women who say their mental health is fair or poor and 23% of men who say the same-three times as high as the percentages among those who say their mental health is excellent, very good or good
- 17% of men who self-report they are overweight, compared with 1% of men who indicate they're around the right weight
- 34% of women who self-report they are overweight, compared with 4% who indicate they're around the right weight
- 51% of women who say they often feel isolated from others and 26% of men who say the same, compared with 8% of women and 4% of men who say they rarely feel isolated
According to the poll team, intense cravings was the most commonly reported symptom of addiction.
The report is based on findings from a national survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for IHPI and was administered online and over the phone in July 2022, with 2,163 adult participants aged 50 to 80.
To view the full report, visit here.
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