Food Addiction (Part I) - Can food be an addiction?

Diet Nutrition Weight Loss Beef Vegetable Dinner

Binge Eating and Obesity

A common misconception is that everyone who binges, is overweight or obese, or that everyone who is overweight or obese binges. Although the diagnosis is not limited to overweight or obese individuals, in clinical settings, the vast majority of individuals with BED present varying degrees of overweightness or obesity, according to a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine in 2010. These and many other factors, such as the lack of success of solely metabolic and nutritional interventions, have given rise to the current theme of viewing binge eating as a form of addiction. Is there such a thing as food addiction? Currently, there is no such thing as a diagnosis of food addiction; there is not even a consensus in the scientific community as to whether this idea should even be considered. The idea of this trilogy of blogs is to present a narrow summary of current scientific research that support the idea of food addiction. The first thing we will do is look at how addiction is currently defined.

Current Definitions of Addiction

The American Psychiatric Association (2000) describes addiction, or more precisely dependence, as a “cluster of cognitive, behavioral and physiological symptoms indicating that the individual continues use of the substance despite significant substance-related problems.” Some of these problems include taking larger amounts of the substance over a longer period than intended, a persistent but often unsuccessful desire to control the substance use, or an investment of time in procuring and recovering from the substance and neglecting important social/occupational/recreational activities because of its use. A very important component of this definition is the aspect of tolerance and with it, the need for a greater amount of the substance to achieve the desired effects or a significantly reduced effect with the administration of the same amount of the substance. Withdrawal, defined as discomforting psychological and physiological symptoms that occur after the cessation of administration of a substance, is also a very important component of the definition of addiction.
With this as the current definition validated by the scientific community, some believe that food cannot cause these severe symptoms, particularly because of the alleged lack of proof for tolerance and withdrawal. However, many still believe that, even within this definition, it is valid to accept food as an addiction. For our next blog we will present some of the evidence for this standpoint.