food addiction: another case of “duh” science

ok, time for another rant. looks like i can’t speak gently on this. sorry, buddha.

this article in UStoday had me alternatively laughing out loud, rolling my eyes and frowning.

obesity has long been blamed on weak willpower, overeating, genetics and lack of exercise. now scientists increasingly are seeing signs that suggest there may be an additional contributor: food addiction.

reaaaaally? how did they come up with that far-fetched idea? duh! they didn’t by any chance talk to people who overeat, did they?

monday night and again today, dozens of the nation’s leading researchers in obesity, nutrition and addiction planned to discuss whether food has addictive properties for some people. they’re gathering in new haven, conn., at a meeting sponsored by yale university’s rudd center for food policy and obesity.

“we believe that there is sufficient science to suggest there is something to this, so we are bringing the leading authorities together to decide whether food addiction is real and what the underlying psychology and biology might be,” says kelly brownell, director of the rudd center.

“it’s surprising that our field has overlooked this concept for so long,” he says. “society blames obesity only on the people who have it and has been close-minded to other explanations.”

oh, and not listening to your patients for decades hasn’t been close-minded? because otherwise you would have “discovered” this long ago. there’s nothing more frustrating for a person who is a compulsive overeater than to go to a doctor hoping for some help and all they get is, “well, you just need to eat less.” enough to drive one to eat! (and that’s not a joke).

support for the idea of food addiction comes from animal and human studies, including brain imaging research on humans, says mark gold, chief of addiction medicine at the mcknight brain institute at the university of florida, who is a co-chair for the meeting.

in a medical setting, “we evaluated people who were too heavy to leave their reclining chairs and too big to walk out the doorway,” he says. “they do not eat to survive. they love eating and spent the day planning their new takeout choices.”

they “love” eating the way a heroin addict just adores shooting up?

psychiatrist nora volkow, director of the national institute on drug abuse, a speaker at the meeting, says the research in this area is complicated, but most people’s weight problems aren’t caused by food addiction.

well, ms. volkow, i’m going to go have a talk with you about what constitutes “addiction” for you. would not being able to stop eating even though one wants to count?

some studies focus on dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. “impaired function of the brain dopamine system could make some people more vulnerable to compulsive eating, which could lead to morbid obesity,” volkow says. she did groundbreaking research in this area while at the US department of energy’s brookhaven (NY) national laboratory.

for some compulsive eaters, the drive to eat is so intense that it overshadows the motivation to engage in other rewarding activities, and it becomes difficult to exercise self-control, she says. this is similar to the compulsion that an addict feels to take drugs, she says. “when this occurs, the compulsive eating behavior can interfere with their well-being and their health.”

ok, this might be a case of bad reporting again. i just hope that the good doctors didn’t say this.

people, read what you’re writing. if the drive to eat is so intense in some, what’s happening with the other compulsive overeaters? what’s with the “compulsive” and “over” eating with them?

and the compulsive eating can interfere with health? can you give me an example of when compulsive behaviour does not diminish health and well-being?

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

11 thoughts on “food addiction: another case of “duh” science

  1. Scooty

    Food has been my drug of choice since I was a teenager. I’ve yo yo dieted from 125lbs up to 190lbs. It’s long past time for medical science to take a different approach to helping obese people. Overeating is no more a choice for an addict than a drink is for an alcoholic. It’s a struggle every single day.

  2. Scooty

    Food has been my drug of choice since I was a teenager. I’ve yo yo dieted from 125lbs up to 190lbs. It’s long past time for medical science to take a different approach to helping obese people. Overeating is no more a choice for an addict than a drink is for an alcoholic. It’s a struggle every single day.

  3. Brooke

    Well, it may be long overdue, but it is good to have scientific acknowledgement of the problem. Even so, I don’t expect them to come up with an easy fix. Although we understand drug addiction in many ways, recovery still boils down to the addict being willing to live consciously and manage their addiction. Maybe someday somebody will figure out how to remove the addiction completely so it is not just a matter of management.
    I have so much to say on this topic, I will have to write an article on my own blog.
    Isabella thanks for sharing this information!
    Brooke

  4. Brooke

    Well, it may be long overdue, but it is good to have scientific acknowledgement of the problem. Even so, I don’t expect them to come up with an easy fix. Although we understand drug addiction in many ways, recovery still boils down to the addict being willing to live consciously and manage their addiction. Maybe someday somebody will figure out how to remove the addiction completely so it is not just a matter of management.
    I have so much to say on this topic, I will have to write an article on my own blog.
    Isabella thanks for sharing this information!
    Brooke

  5. marian

    good grief! all i can do is shake my head. this reinforces how grateful i am that this kind of thinking did not result in some ill-informed doctor trying to ‘treat’ my childhood obesity!
    thank god/ess i was left to flounder for 20 years on my own! my name is marian and I AM A FOOD ADDICT!

  6. marian

    good grief! all i can do is shake my head. this reinforces how grateful i am that this kind of thinking did not result in some ill-informed doctor trying to ‘treat’ my childhood obesity!
    thank god/ess i was left to flounder for 20 years on my own! my name is marian and I AM A FOOD ADDICT!

  7. mcewen

    I definitely think it’s harder in the States than some other countries. The portions are huge, food is relatively cheap and people eat incredibly fast. There aren’t that many restaurants [cheap ones] where you can spend 4 hours over dinner. I don’t think that there are many people over here willing to spend four hours over dinner and a chat.
    Best wishes

  8. mcewen

    I definitely think it’s harder in the States than some other countries. The portions are huge, food is relatively cheap and people eat incredibly fast. There aren’t that many restaurants [cheap ones] where you can spend 4 hours over dinner. I don’t think that there are many people over here willing to spend four hours over dinner and a chat.
    Best wishes

  9. isabella mori

    thanks, scooty, brooke, marian and mcewen. thanks for taking the time to comment.

    “it’s a struggle every single day.” and perhaps one of the reaons there is such a struggle is because the drug of choice is so easily available, in such large quantities, and it’s always shoved into people’s faces.

    it’s really a complex issue, one that CANNOT be boiled down to lack of willpower.

    and you’re right, of course, brooke – it IS good that there is finally some acknowledgment. i’m looking forward to reading what you have to say about this!

  10. isabella mori

    thanks, scooty, brooke, marian and mcewen. thanks for taking the time to comment.

    “it’s a struggle every single day.” and perhaps one of the reaons there is such a struggle is because the drug of choice is so easily available, in such large quantities, and it’s always shoved into people’s faces.

    it’s really a complex issue, one that CANNOT be boiled down to lack of willpower.

    and you’re right, of course, brooke – it IS good that there is finally some acknowledgment. i’m looking forward to reading what you have to say about this!

  11. Mary B.

    Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA) is a worldwide organization and 12-step fellowship that has been successful in helping thousands of people recover from the bondage of food addiction. Many men and women overate, over-exercised, binged and purged. Some had over 100 lbs. to lose while others had little or no weigh to lose. We just all had an obsession with food, weight, dieting, how we looked, etc. Check out the website http://www.foodaddicts.org for meetings in your area and any other information you may need. Bless you

  12. Shoppy

    The thing about most addictions is, you have to give up what you’re addicted to – be it drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. But you can’t give up food, which makes food addiction especially difficult to tackle.

  13. Mary B.

    Shoppy, you are exactly right. Food addicts have to consume the substance they are addicted to. However, sugar and flour products are what must be eliminated. If you don’t believe how addictive they are, try an experiment. Eliminate them for a week from your diet and see if you don’t feel like absolute crap. This is detox similiar to coming off alcohol, nicotine, etc. That’s why working a 12-step program like FA is important. We follow a structured food plan but also begin working the 12 steps. This is not WW, Jenny Craig, etc. It is a recovery program–no fees, no weigh ins, just experience, strength, and hope. Try it. If you are a food addict like me, you have tried and failed with everything–losing only to gain it right back and more. I am now a happy and sane person who doesn’t have to obsess about weight anymore as long as I work the FA program one day at a time. Thanks!

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