The rise in cases of obesity and mental illness has coincided, suggesting the two may be linked, a University of Newcastle researcher says.

“There is substantial overlap between addictive eating with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression,” Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics Tracy Burrows said.

Dr Burrows said mental-health disorders including depression and disordered eating had been linked to obesity.

“The link between the conditions needs further explanation, as it’s likely to be a two-way relationship.”

For some people, depression may lead to increased weight and vice versa.

“This might then have a spiralling effect,” she said.

Dr Burrows’ comments come as her team of researchers develop an online program to help people deal with food addiction. The program aims to give people coping skills to reduce the amount of food they eat.

It’s a collaboration between University of Newcastle, Hunter Medical Research Institute and University of Queensland. Dr Burrows’ team has reviewed treatments for addictive eating.

Evidence-based programs run by qualified health professionals were found to be scarce.

– Damon Cronshaw

Read more: Obesity link to depression and anxiety in University of Newcastle research

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