Are you addicted to food?

Are there certain foods that you can truly get addicted to? Dr. Oz says there are – Brain Hijackers: The 4 Most Addictive Foods.

The question now is…do I agree?

No. I don’t. I don’t think you can truly get addicted to a certain food.

Yes, I do think there are foods that we have a harder time avoiding/giving up on a diet. There are certain foods we are definitely more attached to.

But I don’t really think a true addiction is created.

I mean certain foods just taste freaking good so of course we want them all the time. Certain foods also comfort us or just remind us of happy times.

You could say I’m addicted to ice cream. I mean it has the sugar and fat that Dr. Oz says is addictive and I have the hardest time not wanting it when I’m in a bad mood, stressed or well…anything. I pretty much could eat ice cream all the time.

But I don’t think I can truly say I’m addicted to ice cream.

I just like the taste of it AND I associate it with good times and happy feelings.

So maybe it isn’t actually the ice cream or the chocolate or meat itself that is addictive, but the feelings and memories associated with the food that make us crave it.

I mean now I’ve started craving dried fruit more than anything….even maybe ice cream. Why this sudden addiction to dried fruit…specifically apricots?

Because I associate dried fruit with relaxed weekends on the couch with Ryan. I’ve been stressed free on those days and have totally gotten to relax each and every time I’ve eaten dried fruit recently.

So am I addicted to the dried fruit or the fact that my brain associates dried fruit with relaxing?

Hmmm…this could be an interesting experiment. I should try eating one certain type of veggie…like brussel sprouts…on any relaxing day/fun event and see if I start to crave them….

Posted on January 16, 2012, in Diet, Uhm? and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Dr. Oz is on to something. I don’t have first person experience of what he said, so I can’t speak to that, per say, but food addiction is a reality for some individuals.

    The hyperpalatability of foods (read: fat on sugar on salt combinations that our food industry is genius at creating) can actually re-wire neural pathways in the brain- the exact mechanisms by which our brains respond to cocaine. fMRI’s have proved this time and time again in recent research, demonstrating how the brain lights up when pictures of foods are projected (again, fatty or sweet or salty foods- brains don’t light up w/ broccoli (most likely because broccoli didn’t get us through the stone-age)). These foods are highly rewarding- eliciting dopamine release, consumption of the food, opioid release, more dopamine release, and further desiring and craving of those foods.

    AND, some folks have more sensitive circuitry, meaning that they respond to food stimuli differently than others. So, although you might not feel “hooked” to ice cream, to others, it’s crack on a spoon. And, once they start, it’s nearly impossible to stop (read: food binges).

    A good read, if you’re interested in exploring more on the topic, is Dr. Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating. I had the good fortune of seeing him speak at Harvard. He’s pretty rockin’, and his book is solid, citing a lot of research (I’m a research junkie-loved it!)

    Of course, there is eating associated with pleasurable moments, to be sure! And perhaps apricots are that for you. But, I’d be curious if it’s because they are sweet, and providing you with the “stimulation” that you aren’t getting from your ice cream right now…Hmmm…fun to ponder. Let me know if you start craving cruciferous veggies…that would be wicked!!

  2. Our bodies naturally crave, fatty, sweet and salty foods. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that these foods trigger feel good chemicals. That doesn’t mean it’s an addiction. There was no reason for evolving humans to crave calciferous veggies because they didn’t provided the sustenance needed to survive and thrive. Check this out if you like research

    If dopamine release is associated with the reward system in the brain, it would make perfect sense that you crave foods you associate with “good times and happy feelings.”

    Can you provide links to all this “proof” that keeps coming out “time and time again”?

    You say “Some folks respond differently than others”

    read: Obese binge eaters respond differently. You can’t take”normal healthy” people and compare them to obese people with binge eating disorders. A cocaine addicts brain would respond differently to pictures of cocaine vs. an occasional user.

    I assume you are referring to this study when you are taking about these “folks”

    You can’t draw too many conclusions from a 10 person study.

    If you say hyper-palatable foods cause this brain stimulation, it would make no sense that dried fruit would be a substitute for ice cream because there is nothing hyper-palatable about it.

    • Fattylanes,

      It seems like we see eye to eye on the evolutionary influence and pull on food preferences/desirability. I think you meant “cruciferous” not calciferous? Veggies aren’t the best source of calcium, after-all. 😉

      Are you familiar with the Reno Diet Heart Study-Sachiko St. Jeor? N of 508 people, women and men. Half overwt or obese, half not. Followed for 5 years. Data included loss of control over eating, lack of feeling satisfied by food, and preoccupation with food. Using latent classification analysis they determined that 50% of obese, 30% of overwt, and 17% of lean people demonstrated features of “hypereating.” Lean folks aren’t immune to addictive qualities of food, either. It’s possible that they find compensatory ways to “deal” and avoid overeating.

      Similarly, Kessler, Felsted, Small, et al (2008) in their study Differential Effects of BMI and Eating Style on Neural Response also conclude that lean, overwt and obese folks who score high on a conditioned hypereating scale exhibit elevated response in the amygdala (reward center) w/ a decreased response in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (responsible for inhibitory control) compared to matched BMI folks who score low on the scale. Cool study-check it out.

      Petrovich, Setlow and crew also provided some interesting results w/ their “Amygdalo-Hypothalamic Circuit Allows Learned Cues to Override Satiety and Promote Eating, in the J of Science (2008).

      Pelchat (2009) gives a nice overview of the “parallels” between food craving and drug craving in his “Food Addictions in Humans” in the J of Nutr.

      These are just a few, let me know if I can dig up some more for you.

      As with all research, it would be awesome if all of our studies were double-blind, placebo controlled, w/ huge n’s. But, as you know, that’s usually not the case. And, even if we did have these, there tends to be pretty significant variability b/w study designs. Alas. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water, right? My bias is that there is something to this, and if not for the suggestion of current literature, at the very least, I have personal experience with some of my overweight and athlete clients which elucidate an addictive quality to certain foods.

      This is my take on it, and I can only speak for myself!

      My best,

      • Thank you for correcting the wordpress spell check feature for me. well done!

        You could have saved yourself a lot of time and just told me to read The End of Overeating . I have no doubt Chris Kessler can do a good job of trying to prove (sell) what’s in his book. Care to find anything on your own?

        I find it very interesting you chose to include the Reno Diet Heart study. Kessler says that the 17% of thin people are susceptible to become overweight because they demonstrate hypereating yet completely ignores the fact that 50% of obese people, 70% of overweight people and 83% of lean people DON’T demonstrate the features of hypereating. Are these obese people likely to become thin?

        My biggest problem with this whole addiction movement is an addiction was originally a physical and psychological dependence on a chemical substance that crossed the blood brain barrier. Now addiction is applied to everything from food to video games to religion to sex to lack of food. Anorexic people have increased activity in the brain’s dopamine receptors. Does this show a chemical dependency? No, it shows they have something else effed up in their head. Disorder of the head is appropriate but it’s widely considered an addiction as well…You can be an addict to anything these days as long as you show the right brain activity during a scan.

      • Hmmm…not entirely sure where the antagonism is coming from. “Care to find anything on your own?” Did I miss something?

        Did you look into the research articles? These are some from my graduate work at CSU. These, I found…on my own. While I was there, a friend of mine completed series of fMRI studies looking at brain activation and food preference, so I can dig that up as well, if you’re interested.

        I’m sorry if I pushed a sensitive button. Not my intention. Just enjoyed engaging in an interesting topic.


  3. sorry to sound antagonistic, didn’t mean to offend. It must be my ice cream withdrawal causing irritability 😉

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