"My name is Kris and I am a food addict." I've written a number of articles on food addiction before.

The feedback has been amazing... many people have commented and e-mailed me, sharing their struggles with food.

From talking to people, I have gotten the vibe that food addiction is a pretty common problem.

The cravings, obsessive thoughts about food, failure to cut back despite physical harm...

These symptoms are common, and they happen to be typical symptoms of addiction.

This has a well defined biological basis, because new studies have shown that junk foods activate the same areas in the brain as drugs of abuse (1, 2).

For this reason, people who are susceptible to becoming addicted can become addicted to foods, in the same way as drug addicts become addicted to drugs.

I personally know this to be true... I am a recovering drug addict, alcoholic and former smoker, and a few years after I became sober I developed an addiction to unhealthy foods.

The cravings, the thought processes, the complete lack of self control. It was exactly the same as my addiction to drugs, only a different substance and the social consequences weren't as severe.

Although I'm sure food addiction has been around for a long time, it is a relatively "new" term and isn't fully recognized as a real disorder yet.

Fortunately, times are changing. The number of papers on food addiction in the scientific literature has been increasing rapidly in the past few years.

Several studies have been conducted attempting to assess how common food addiction is, as well as how it affects peoples' weight and risk of chronic disease.

The results are pretty shocking and should serve as a wake up call for health professionals and public health authorities... many of which are currently clueless about the existence of this massive health problem.

As with most other addictions, there is no blood test to diagnose food addiction.

It is based on behavioral symptoms and is usually diagnosed with a questionnaire.

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) contains the official criteria used by health professionals to diagnose mental disorders.

Unfortunately, food addiction is not yet recognized in the DSM.

However, a scale called the Yale Food Addiction Scale has been developed in order to diagnose food addiction (3, 4).

It is a set of 27 questions that assess a person's eating and how it relates to the DSM's official criteria for addiction.

You can find the questions here and the instructions on how to interpret them here.

Someone who is a food addict according to this scale has the same brain responses and behavioral symptoms as a drug addict, it is just a different substance (5).

Bottom Line: The Yale Food Addiction Scale is used to diagnose food addiction. It is a set of 27 questions that relate to the official criteria used by health professionals to diagnose addiction.

The largest study on the prevalence (percentage of people who have it) of food addiction was published in March, 2014.

This study included 134,175 women participating in the Nurses Health Study, a major observational study in the U.S. (6).

Overall, 5.8% of the women met the criteria for food addiction and the numbers varied greatly with age: