New research reportedly suggests that belief in food addiction translates into support for obesity-related policies, “even when accounting for the significant associations of age, gender and political party.” Erica Schulte, et al., “Belief in Food Addiction and Obesity-Related Policy Support,” PLoS One, January 2016. Relying on the responses of 200 individuals recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk to answer questions about belief in food addiction and support for 13 obesity-related initiatives, researchers reported that “belief in food addiction and political party both had moderate effect sizes for predicting support for obesity-related policy.”

“Historically, the identification of a substance as addictive shifts public perceptions in a manner that increases support for public policies that aim to reduce the negative impact of the substance (e.g., restrictions on marketing, taxation),” the study’s authors noted. “For example, the identification of nicotine as addictive, rather than habit forming, was one of the defining moments that shifted public attitudes about cigarettes and led to the development of new tobacco-focused policies.”

The study thus speculates that when presented with evidence supporting a food addiction model, the public will increasingly adopt a more favorable stance toward obesity-related initiatives. As it concludes, “Participants who agreed that certain foods can be addictive were more likely to endorse support for policies that aim to reduce obesity (e.g., fruit/vegetable subsidies, limiting the size of sugar-sweetened bever- ages… Though applying an addiction, or ‘brain disease’ framework to drugs and behaviors has yielded mixed results on stigma, the current findings suggest that belief in an addiction model of obesity is associated with support for public policies that aim to reduce obesity.”