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

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