Food Addiction, Fact or Fiction?
Binging on high-calorie foods may be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine.
Obesity has long been blamed on weak willpower, overeating, genetics and lack of exercise.
Now scientists increasingly are seeing signs that suggest there may be an additional contributor: food addiction.
Recent research suggests that people can become dependent on highly palatable foods and engage in a compulsive pattern of consumption, similar to the behaviours we observe in drug addicts and those with alcoholism.
So, how does it happen? We all reward ourselves with treats, but food addicts overdo the comfort eating. Their brains become trained to see some foods as quick-fix mood boosters and suddenly they’re hooked.
Addicts have a consuming want for a specific food. The desire is so strong, in reality, that if you are not able to devour that food, you endure from withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sickness, and depression.
Overconsumption of sugar-dense foods or beverages is initially motivated by the pleasure of sweet taste and is often compared to drug addiction.
Some studies focus on dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and reward.
Impaired function of the brain dopamine system could make some people more vulnerable to compulsive eating, which could lead to morbid obesity.
The stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.
For some compulsive eaters, the drive to eat is so intense that it overshadows the motivation to engage in other rewarding activities, and it becomes difficult to exercise self-control.
This is similar to the compulsion that an addict feels to take drugs, when this occurs, the compulsive eating behaviour can interfere with their well-being and health.
“These results strongly reinforce the view that food addiction is an identifiable condition with clinical symptoms, and is characterised by a psycho-behavioural profile that is similar to conventional drug-abuse disorders,” said Dr. Davis, one of the lead researcher at Yale University.
Come on, admit it. We’ve all had the munchies from time to time, but for some people, food can become an obsession, an addiction even.
It seems that if you have too much of a particular kind of food, particularly sweet foods, that can actually start to become addictive.
Sugar, fried foods and dairy are all common culprits, but how can you tell if you’re addicted to food and how can you bring your eating under control?
Tell tale signs that you are addicted to food:
- You eat when you’re not hungry.
- When you are lonely or sad you eat and keep eating to make yourself feel better.
- After overeating, you often feel guilty.
- It’s likely you have one particular food you binge on and often you are obsessed by eating and how to get your next food fix.
- Your eating or weight affects your way of life, your relationships or your work.
- You seek out friends with similar eating habits.
How to Control Your Eating
There are many ways to control food addiction and get you back on track to healthy eating.
- Go cold turkey. The sooner you stop feeding your addiction the sooner you will overcome it.
- Out of sight, out of mind! Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food options.
- Portion Control. Eat your meals on side plates and eat slowly.
- Find ways to control stress so emotional eating doesn’t rule your life.
- Make new habits to distract you from craving. Go for a walk, play with your pets or do some gardening.
- Learning how to cope with stress and how to distract yourself from cravings is also important but it takes a lot of getting used to.
If sugary foods are your weakness, chromium is the mineral for you.
It is found naturally in liver, egg yolk, oysters and beef.
Chromium is a component of a compound called glucose tolerance factor (GTF) which works with insulin to move glucose into cells where it can be used to generate energy.
Optimal chromium intake appears to decrease the amount of insulin needed to maintain normal blood sugar.
In simple terms, chromium decreases sugar cravings. If the cravings are gone then you are more likely to not reach for that second piece of chocolate cake!
You Are Not Alone
If you are having trouble giving up your addiction to food, Emed are here to help.
We provide teleconference consultations so that we can discuss your health problems in detail and provide personalised strategies to achieve your health goals.
We all know cutting calories and increasing exercise will make us lose weight — but can fidgeting play a part?
A study by Wollongong University found fidgeting can burn off an extra 1200 calories a day. That’s more than a burger and fries!