Food Addiction is Like Drug Addiction – New Studies

by Dr Naras Lapsys

We all know how excessive drug use and alcohol can result in addiction. We’ve heard of people’s stories about their battle with these, the anonymous groups they joined to help them overcome it and the never ending struggle to stay away from it all.

You may have also heard the term food addiction loosely used as something which may mean a lot of things: overeating, compulsive eating or inability to control large food intake. But what really is food addiction? Is it something that can be likened to other types of addiction and is it as serious as these other forms of addiction?

What Studies Say

For some time, experts have battled about the term food addiction. Some would argue that an eating disorder should not be likened to drug addiction or alcohol addiction. Some say addiction is too strong a word to use to describe a person’s issues with food.

Here are some recent studies that may prove otherwise.

  • In 2012 a study undertaken by Dr. Nora Volkow, National Institute on Drug Abuse Director, showed the similarity of food and drug addiction when it comes to dysfunctions that appeared in the brain. Both food and drug addiction showed a decrease in dopamine D2 receptors in the area of the brain related to self-control, which resulted in the inability to resist temptations and in the area of the brain related to pleasure, which resulted in reduced gratification of the food or substance.
  • A 2013 study perfomed by Dr David Ludwig, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, supports the similarity of food and drug addiction. A study of twelve obese men demonstrated that when individuals consumed shakes with a high glycemic index, it triggered the same reaction observed in people with drug addiction. The consumption of shakes activated the nucleus accumbens which plays a vital role in the body’s reward circuit responsible for controlling satiety and desire. The nucleus accumbens has also been linked to drug addiction. A drug addict’s cravings can be likened as well to the reaction produced in drinking the shakes which showed the glycemic index surging then suddenly dropping leading the nucleus accumbens to signal for more.
  • A study by Ashley Gearhardt, a psychology assistant professor, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, also shows the reaction of 48 women to a milkshake as similar to that of a drug addict. Just merely seeing the milkshake brought about reactions in the areas of the brain – the anterior cingulate cortex and medial orbitofrontal cortex – of these women. These areas of the brain have also been associated with drug addiction. These areas are triggered when a drug addict has an impulse to use drugs.

Food Addiction Explained

Food addiction has been affecting various individuals who think what they have is normal. As this addiction is of food, something needed every day, sometimes people think the problem merely lies in the person’s will to control the cravings.

Food addiction is in fact more than this. According to Dr. Volkow, food addicts’ inability to control their consumption of food is not merely because of their lack of willpower, it is connected to the activities of their brain which makes it very difficult for them to stop. Just as people with drug addiction have difficulty staying away from the substance and have trouble stopping the consumption, so do people with food addiction.

It’s not merely attempting to address weight control in Sydney. This is a serious condition that needs to be acknowledged and that needs serious care. A person suffering from food addiction may experience symptoms such as: abnormal eating patterns, uncontrollable eating, eating faster than customary, weight fluctuations, feeling embarrassed about weight, low self-esteem, feeling guilty after overeating, mood swings, and depression. Food addiction may also lead to serious health issues. Someone with food addiction would need to see a specialist right away to help them overcome and deal with the addiction.

 

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