Food addiction as a mediator between depressive symptom severity and body mass index

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Depression is associated with an increased risk of cardiometabolic disease linked to weight gain driven by complex interactions between multiple risk factors, including overeating behaviours. However, risk factors that mediate the relationship between depressive symptoms and weight gain remain to be fully elucidated. This study examined food addiction symptoms as a potential mediator on the relationship between depressive symptom severity and adiposity as measured by body mass index (BMI), and evaluated whether this relationship was contingent on appetite symptom profile and sex. In a sample of 628 adults, depressive symptom severity was assessed using the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and food addiction symptoms were measured using the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS, version 2). Participant demographics, including BMI, appetite presentations and sex, were assessed using self-report questions. Mediation and moderated mediation analyses were performed to determine relationships between variables. The prevalence of depressogenic food addiction in the present sample was 21.7%. After accounting for age and averaged amount of exercise, food addiction symptoms fully mediated the relationship between depressive symptom severity and BMI. Appetite symptom profile was a significant moderator of this relationship, with effects more pronounced in those with increased appetite compared to decreased or unchanged appetite. While sex was not a significant moderator, being male or female was associated with higher food addiction scores. This study supports food addiction symptoms as an important behavioural risk factor for increased adiposity linked to greater depressive symptom severity, particularly in those experiencing increased appetite during a depressive episode. Assessment and monitoring of food addiction symptoms may have utility in reducing the risk of increased BMI and adverse health outcomes in those experiencing more severe depressive symptoms.

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