Can food be addictive?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics
As obesity reaches continues to rise to epidemic levels, neuroimaging suggests a link between overeating and brain health, the link looks similar to other addictions such as drugs and alcohol.
Weight problems may be all in your head, or at least in your brain, according to an emerging body of brain-imaging work and related research on cravings, overeating and addictive responses to food. Daniel Amen, MD, one of the world’s best-known neuropsychiatrists, has worked with tens of thousands of patients from 90 countries for more than 20 years and has recently gathered results and insights related to the brain-fat connection.
“Most weight problems occur between the ears, which may explain why most diets don’t work and why, after a decade of gastric banding, the success rate is a disappointing 31%,” Amen says. “It’s the brain that makes our eating decisions, and what we’ve found is that there isn’t just one brain pattern associated with overeating, there are multiple patterns. So giving everyone the same diet plan will make some people better and some worse. Instead we’re seeing that we need to match our strategies for overeating to the type of brain pattern or patterns that are affecting us the most.”
Research reveals one example of the brain-body connection. If you have low frontal-lobe activity, as is common with attention deficit disorder (ADD), for example, you’re much more likely to be obese. The frontal lobes are critical to making decisions such as food choices. Given the advertising industry and the current abundance of cheap, unhealthy food, we’re tempted repeatedly. You have to have fairly good self-control to not be obese in today’s society. If your frontal-lobe activity is low, it’s difficult for you to say no. 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
It doesn't take a scientist to know that certain foods make people want to eat way more than they know is healthy -- and that spinach and broccoli are not high on that list. But here's what scientists have figured out: Some highly delectable treats, such as sugary or high-fat foods, make parts of the brain that recognize rewards light up like a pinball machine. The problem is, the more you feed a craving for these foods, the duller your sense of reward becomes when you eat them. That means you need to stuff ever-larger amounts of cookies or cake or French fries down your gullet to get that same "high." The same thing happens to people addicted to booze or drugs.

Scientists at the Oregon Research Institute demonstrated this phenomenon by putting kids in MRI scanners as they drank chocolate ice cream milk shakes. The MRIs showed relatively low activity in the reward centers of the brains in kids who had eaten a lot of ice cream in the weeks preceding the study.

That could spell trouble since it means that kids hooked on junk food or desserts may be tempted to eat even more of the bad stuff. But does it necessarily mean you can actually become addicted to Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey or Cherry Garcia?

Scientists debate whether food is truly addictive. But there's no disagreement that frequent pig-outs on ice cream or any other high-calorie dish can leave you battling the bulge.
Keri Gans
Nutrition & Dietetics

Registered Dietitian Keri Gans discusses whether or not she thinks food can be addictive. Watch Keri's video for tips and information on nutrition.


Great video Dr. Oz.

I find that many of my clients especially those who do not drink, smoke or do drugs will have issues with food and over indulging.

I believe that all addictions are used for the reason to bring pleasure to ourselves to try and cover the pain deep down that we are experiencing with something.  It is extremely problematic because people will feel guilty, depressed, hopeless and worthless.

Having will-power is not the answer.  Not anyone is strong enough to deal with this on their own, they have to deal with the pain and professionals and people around them to help.

The key is for them deal with the deep down inner issues, understand their worth as a person and then understand that food was created to enjoy not just for fuel.  The issue is in indulgence not enjoyment.  If people can deal deep down with the issues and not just try and quit and have a great group of professionals and support that can help them with the pain, then they can move more into a healthier lifestyle where food is enjoyed in moderation and not used as medication.

Just a fitness professionals opinion!

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Food can be just as addictive and destructive as heroin and cocaine. Hear stories of women addicted to food in this video with Dr. Oz and Dr. Ramani Durvasula.


Continue Learning about Weight Loss

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.