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Addicted to Eating But Not to Foods

Addicted to Eating But Not to Foods

New research suggests people do not become addicted to donuts or sodas, but they can become addicted to eating for its own sake.

UK researchers discovered the brain does not respond to nutrients in the same way as it does to addictive drugs such as heroin or cocaine. In other words, people can become addicted to eating but not to consuming specific foods such as those high in sugar or fat.

In the new study, an international team of scientists did not find strong evidence for people being addicted to the chemical substances in certain foods.

Researchers believe people can develop a psychological compulsion to eat, driven by the positive feelings that the brain associates with eating. This is a behavioral disorder and could be categorized alongside conditions such as gambling addiction, say scientists at the University of Edinburgh.

They add that the focus on tackling the problem of obesity should be moved from food itself towards the individual’s relationship with eating.

The study, which examined the scientific evidence for food addiction as a substance-based addiction, is published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Study authors believe a formal diagnosis of eating addiction is appropriate, but more research would be needed to define a diagnosis. A diagnosis of eating addiction is not included in the current classification of mental disorders.

Dr. John Menzies, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Integrative Physiology, said, “People try to find rational explanations for being overweight, and it is easy to blame food. Certain individuals do have an addictive-like relationship with particular foods and they can overeat despite knowing the risks to their health.

“More avenues for treatment may open up if we think about this condition as a behavioral addiction rather than a substance-based addiction.”

Professor Suzanne Dickson, Ph.D., of the University of Gothenburg, who¬†coordinated the project, added, “There has been a major debate over whether sugar is addictive. There is currently very little evidence to support the idea that any ingredient, food item, additive or combination of ingredients has addictive properties.”

Source: University of Edinburgh

Man eating fruit photo by shutterstock.

Addicted to Eating But Not to Foods

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Addicted to Eating But Not to Foods. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.