Yes, Food Addiction is Real, Researchers Say

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New research suggests that people can become so dependent on food that they might actually exhibit symptoms of addiction.While people often jokingly complain about being addicted to food, Canadian researchers say it may actually be a real phenomenon.

Using a questionnaire, the researchers assessed a group of obese males and females according to 7 symptoms used to diagnose substance dependence. The symptoms included withdrawal, tolerance, and continued use despite problems.

But instead of “drugs”, they substituted the word “food” into the questions.

Based on the responses, the researchers were able to clearly classify participants into food addicts or non-addicts.

While ‘food addicts’ did not differ from non-addicts in age or body weight, they did display an increased prevalence of binge-eating disorder and depression, and more symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

They also tended to have more impulsive personality traits, were more sensitive or responsive to the pleasurable properties of palatable foods, and were more likely to ‘self-soothe’ with food.

“These results strongly reinforce the view that food addiction is an identifiable condition with clinical symptoms, and is characterized by a psycho-behavioral profile that is similar to conventional drug-abuse disorders,” said Dr. C. Davis, lead author of the study.

The study is the first to diagnose food addiction in humans, according to the researchers.  Previous studies have suggested the existence of sugar and fat addiction in animals.