food especially sugar is becoming the biggest luring substance to food addiction
There is one common addiction for all mankind, we are all in one way or the other addicted to food. Visualize how it feels like when you aren’t able to eat. You will probably start to crave for food, and become more physically and emotionally uncomfortable. The longer the cravings go on for, until eating becomes the most important thing for you to do. This is the constant experience of people struggling with food addiction, even if they have plenty to eat.
However food is essential to survival, and unlike other addictive behaviors, it is normal to eat repeatedly every day, and to look forward to eating for pleasure. But several characteristics separate normal or occasional binge eating from a food addiction.
The first point, food addiction is maladaptive, so although people overeat to feel better, it often ends up making them feel worse, and gives those more to feel back about. Food addiction can threaten health, causing obesity, malnutrition, and other problems.
The second point, the overeating that people with food addiction do is persistent, so a person addicted to food eats too much food and most of the time it’s the wrong kinds of food taken repeatedly. Everybody overeat from time to time, but people with food addiction often overeat daily, and they eat not because they are hungry, but as their main way of coping with stress.
As behavioral addictions, the concept of food addiction is a controversial one. Opinions differs between those who think that overeating can be a type of addiction, and those who think that true addictions are limited to psychoactive substances which produces symptoms such as physical and withdrawal. Although this has been demonstrated in research with sugar and fat (the two most common obesity-causing constituents of food), and other studies show that food produces opiates in the body, many think that this does not necessarily constitute an addiction.
However, the growing epidemic of obesity over the past years has raised public health concern. In almost all US states, one in five adults are obese. Childhood obesity was ranked as the top health concern for children in 2008, higher than either drug abuse, rated second, or smoking rated third, both of which were ahead of obesity in 2007.
This concern, along with effective treatments for addictions, which are being successfully applied to more and more problematic behaviors, is contributing to a movement towards understanding over-eating, and the consequences of obesity and related health problems, in terms of addiction.
Food addiction is now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), named as Binge Eating Disorder, and categorized with the Eating Disorders. Excessive eating is also a characteristic of another eating disorders outlined in the DSM, known as Bulimia Nervosa. Some controversy remains over whether eating disorders are actually addictions, but many experts believe that they are.
There are several similarities between food addiction and drug addiction, including effects on mood, external cues to eat or use drugs, expectancies, restraint, ambivalence, and attribution.
Neurotransmitters and the brain’s reward system have been implicated in food and other addictions. In animal studies, for example, dopamine has been found to play an important role in overall reward systems, and binging on sugar has been shown to influence dopamine activity.
Food, drugs and other addictive substances and behaviors are all associated with pleasure, hedonism, and social, cultural or sub-cultural desirability. When advertising or the people around us tell us that a food, drug or activity will feel good, it sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are more likely to seek it out, and we are more likely to experience pleasure when we indulge.
Similarities between food addiction and other addictions suggest a universal process underlying food and other addictions. Some experts go further, theorizing that overlaps, similarities, and co-occurrences of mental health problems, including addictions, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders, and the phenomenon of a new addiction or mental health problem developing when an old addiction is treated, indicate that they are expressions of related underlying pathologies. It has been argued that viewing these conditions separately hinders the development of a comprehensive view of addictions.
In the study involving 39 healthy women with different weights from lean to overweight or obese, the participants were asked to complete the Yale Food Addiction Scale, which tests for signs of food addiction. Women with full-fledged eating disorders of any type were not included in the study.
Then, using fMRI, researchers led by Yale’s Ashley Gearhardt and Kelly Brownell looked at the women’s brain activity in response to food. In one task, the women were asked to look at pictures of either a luscious chocolate shake or a bland, no-calorie solution. For another brain-scan task, women actually drank the shake made with four scoops of vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream, 2% milk and 2 tablespoons of Hershey’s chocolate syrup or the no-calorie control solution, which was designed to be as flavorless as possible (water couldn’t be used because it actually activates taste receptors).
The scientists found that when viewing images of ice cream, the women who had three or more symptoms of food addiction things like frequently worrying about overeating, eating to the point of feeling sick and difficulty functioning due to attempts to control overeating or overeating itself showed more brain activity in regions involved with pleasure and craving than women who had one or no such symptoms.
These areas included the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex and medial orbitofrontal cortex — the same regions that light up in drug addicts who are shown images of drug paraphernalia or drugs.
Similar to people suffering from substance abuse, the food-addicted participants also showed reduced activity in brain regions involved with self-control (the lateral orbitofrontal cortex), when they actually ate the ice cream.
In other words, women with symptoms of food addiction had higher expectations that a chocolate shake would be yummy and pleasurable when they anticipated eating it, and they were less able to stop eating it once they started.
Interestingly, however, unlike drug addicts, the participants with more signs of food addiction did not show a decrease in activity in pleasure-related regions of the brain when they actually ate the ice cream. People with drug addictions tend to derive less and less pleasure from drug use over time — they want drugs more but enjoy them less, creating compulsive behavior. But it’s possible that this tolerance may be seen only in serious addictions, not in people with just a few symptoms.
Notably, the study also found that food addiction symptoms and brain responses to food were not associated with weight: there were some overweight women who showed no food addiction symptoms, and some normal-weight women who did.
That’s why addictions aren’t simple: they involve variations not only in levels of desire, but also in levels of ability to control that desire. And these factors may change in relation to social situations and stress.
Neither heroin nor Häagen-Dazs leads to addiction in the majority of users, and yet there are certain situations that may prompt binges in people who otherwise have high levels of self-control. So the answers to addiction may lie not in the substances themselves, but in the relationship people have with them and the settings in which they are consumed.