To listen to my clients talk, I’m left wondering if food is addictive:
“I don’t do cookies; I eat too many of them.”
“I stay away from M&M’s otherwise I’ll eat the whole bagful.”
“I’m addicted to french fries…I eat them uncontrollably”.
If clients have addictive-like patterns of overeating, does that mean food is addictive?
The topic of whether or not food addiction is a real disorder was addressed at the 26th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress. According to Dr. Dickson, a Swedish neuroscientist, "Food consumption, unlike alcohol, cocaine, or gambling, is necessary for survival. But we don't completely understand why certain vulnerable individuals become addicted, transferring something rewarding to [something they become addicted to.] For drugs, it's much easier to separate what's going on,"
"The evidence itself is insufficient to support the idea that food addiction is a mental disorder. We do not have a clinical syndrome of food addiction so far, and it is very important to establish the validity of a condition before putting it forward for inclusion in the [diagnostic manual for mental disorders]."
"In man, there is no solid evidence that any food, ingredient, combination of ingredients, or additive (with the exception ofcaffeine) causes us to become addicted to it. That is different from drugs, which we know engage the brain and cause us to become addicted to them," she explained. "Still, if we move away from food and concentrate on the individual, we can see that certain obese individuals express addiction-like behaviors."
Hisham Ziauddeen, PhD of University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, notes that although the idea of food addiction is appealing, there is little evidence so far showing that it exists in humans. "It is a very important idea to explore, but it is essential that we have sufficient research to conclusively support it.
Source: Medscape Medical News (c) 2013 WebMD, LLC http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/812650?src=wnl_edit_medn_wir
What I have seen in my clients who describe themselves as being addicted to food is they become too hungry. The physiological response to extreme hunger is to over-eat. Perhaps a simple solution to perceived food addiction is a heartier breakfast?
For more information on how to stay in control of food:
the chapters on snack attacks, weight management and dieting gone awry in the new 2013 edition of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.