Food: A Real Addiction?

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Unlike alcohol and drugs, an addiction to food is not fully recognized by all treatment professionals. But recent evidence suggests that high calorie comfort foods like burgers, fries and macaroni and cheese may have an addictive potential that can contribute to overeating. Impulsivity and over-consumption of such foods have been associated with addiction-like eating behavior not unlike a binge eating disorder. People with food addiction report more frequent food cravings, higher eating disorder psychopathology and more depressive symptoms than non-addicted people.

A large 2013 study using a US-based population of women documented food addiction in young, middle aged and older women. Of the women studied, 5.8% of middle aged women and 8.4% of younger women met the criteria for food addiction. Scientists were hopeful that the results would give insight into the association between behavioral attributes of food consumption and obesity levels in America. Behavioral therapy and support from a women’s group seems to be the best way to handle the issues.

According to another study, out of control food consumption is related to pain reduction centers, which focus on the serotonin mechanisms in the brain. Sugars, flours, wheat and artificial sweeteners can affect serotonin processing, indicating that food addiction might have biological influences. Along with attempting to make dietary improvements, people who suspect they have a food addiction should look into behavioral health services.