Obesity and Junk Food Addiction

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • The word food and addiction has been cautiously avoided by most nutrition experts until recently.  A new study published in late March seems to point to the validity of this association.  In fact, the study suggests that binging on high-calorie foods may be "as addictive" as cocaine or nicotine.  And that behavior could actually instigate lifelong compulsive eating and obesity.


    The study actually looked at the behavior in animals and though we can't assume a direct corollary, the animal behavior may explain how certain people respond to binging and help to create treatments.  These "addicted rats" did not stop gnawing at food, even when zapped with painful shocks.  Experts believe that we may have to look at obesity in some circumstances, as a form of compulsive eating that actually results in a preference and demand for high calorie (high fat, high sugar, high salt) foods that feed the "addiction."  At some point you may no longer be making a decision about food choices, you are just drawn to certain unhealthy foods.  Your compulsion may be mediated by a true addictive type behavior pattern.  Other health researchers have postulated that when people eat diets heavy in high fat-high sugar-high salt tastes, your palate becomes somewhat corrupted and is only satisfied when you choose to eat these food flavors.  You then begin to only eat foods with these tastes and ingredients and you tend to eat them in larger than healthy portions.  Notorious addictive foods include: bacon, cheesecake, sausages, cake-frosting, Ding Dongs, doughnuts.

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    Experts continue to realize that obesity is a complex disease and before treatment occurs, one may need to first identify the (multiple) causes for the weight gain and weight issue.  Some patients may have easy-to-identify causes and treatment may be more easily instituted.  If however, an addictive element is part of the cause, then doctors may need to turn to the same kinds of therapy that is used to treat drug addicts and alcoholics.  Let's also remember that you can choose, as a drug addict or alcoholic, to create an environment that never has the temptation.  We all need to eat, making the treatment for a possible food addiction, very challenging.


    Food note - when trying to avoid high intakes of sodium or salt, you need to be a bit of a detective and assume that foods you would never associate with high salt - may indeed have quite a high dose per serving.  Look for salt in:




    Frozen meats

    Granola bars and food bars


    Breads (even healthy whole grain options)

    Salad dressing

    Cottage cheese


    Notorious high-salt foods include: soups, deli meats, condiments, frozen prepared meals, fast foods, processed snacks.


Published On: June 08, 2010