According to some researches some types of food, like fat and sugar may act like a drug, which means you can become addictive. Since obesity is a major problem in the western world, fast food, composed of mostly fat and sugary substances could be a addiction cause.
Definition of food addiction
Food addiction is a chronic disorder, simply described as preoccupation with food, either being preoccupied of eating too much and being focused on limiting food consumption, or on the other hand eating food in abnormal amounts.
Three types of food addiction:
In this article we will pay more attention to the third type of food addiction, which is compulsive overeating, also known as binge eating.
1. Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa, or more commonly known as bulimia is an eating disorder. Bulimia is a psychological condition, followed by physical consequences. Bulimic person engages in recurrent binge eating, which is followed by an intentional purging- it is a compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain. Subject will eat until painfully full, and then very likely induce vomiting.
Physical characteristics of bulimia: irregular menstrual cycle, loss of dental enamel, increase of cavities, swollen saliva glands, calluses, scars on hands because of vomiting, dependency on laxatives for bowel movements, fluid and electrolyte disturbance.
2. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa or more commonly known as anorexia is characterized by intense fear of gaining weight.
Anorexia is a psychiatric diagnosis, described as eating disorder, characterized by low body weight and body image distortion. Typical of anorexia is excessive weighing, excessive measuring of body parts. Anorexic people persistently use mirror to check their body size. Weight loss is viewed as an impressive achievement- unfortunately this type of behaviour often leads to voluntary starvation, purging, vomiting, excessive exercise, diet drug abuse and may cause in severe cases death.
Physical characteristics of anorexia include: signs of starvation, disruption of the menstrual cycle, thinning of hair or even hair loss, bloated feeling, yellowish palms, dry, pasty skin.
3. Compulsive Overeating
Compulsive overeating or also known as binge eating disorder is a very serious condition with impact on both physical and mental health. Compulsive overeaters, as the name itself says, use food in inappropriate way and eventually become addicted to it and loose control over the amount they eat. More than 60% of compulsive overeaters are overweight. They eat mostly carnbohydrates and junk food, of course in secret. If compulsive overeating is left untreated, it can lead to severe medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and depression or some other mental disease, as all types of addictions (and also food addictions) have underlying, mental roots.
Compulsive overeating affects women and men, although it appears twice as often among women. Compulsive overeating is composed of two episodes: uncontrolled overeating, followed by period of guilt and depression.
Signs of compulsive overeating:
being obsessed and preoccupied with food
remembering a sense of pleasure with food and being unable to stop despite being full
eating large amount of food when not being hungry
eating rapidly than normal
feelings of guilt and depression after eating
eating alone because of shame or embarrassment
Eating is a natural part of life, however some types of eating or some types of behaviours may lead to addiction: to starvation or overeating. And according to some researchers, some types of food eaten, mostly sugary and fatty foods, may act like a drug and may be addictive.
Some studies were made, on animals and humans, and the results prove that people could become addicted to sugar and fat. The reason for addiction are opoids – the same chemicals in brain that play a part in drug or alcohol addiction. Researches show opoids are released when certain foods are consumed, especially when sugary or fatty foods are consumed. Study, carried out by Dr. Ann Kelley, professor of neuroscience at Wisconsin University, together with Matthew Will, shows that high-fat diet appears to alter the brain biochemistry. This altering happens in a similar way that morphine alters brain: it releases opoids that reduce the feeling of being full.
Another scientist, dr. Bart G. Hoebel, a neuroscientist from Princeton University led a similar study into sugar addiction. He gradually fed rats with increasing amounts of sugar. The more sugar he gave them, the faster they ate it, and suddenly when sugar was withdrawn from their diet, rats experienced reactions, typical of addiction: anxiety, shaking, chattering teeth.
Dr. Hoebels also claims that sugar triggers the production of the brain's natural opioids, just as dr. Kelley from previous example claims that fat triggers the production of the brain's natural opioids. Both experiments lead to conclusion that sugary and fatty food cause addiction, and of course as we all know, both fat and sugar are a cause of many potential diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, teeth decay and many other.
Food addiction treatments
People who are addicted to food display this many characteristics of alcoholics or drug addicts. Food addicts develop mental, emotional and physical cravings for food. When treating food addictions several treatments are available. These treatments include consulting with doctors, nutritionists or eating disorder specialist and psychologist.
If you suspect you or someone close to you, have a problem with food addiction, ask yourself following questions:
- do I have feelings of guilt after eating
- am I depressed, irritated
- do I have headaches, mood swings or problems with insomnia
- do I eat emotionally
- have I tried to control my eating, but have failed
- do I hide my food
- do I have weight fluctuations
- does weight affect my way of life