the binge-eating files » Addiction

Food addiction, binge eating, substance use and mental health

Bigger, stronger, faster: how my exercise addiction nearly killed me    The Guardian (Feb 5, 2024) by Margo Steines — I turned to fitness when I was out of control with bourbon, drugs and an eating disorder – but it became another problem. … more

BED and Addictive Behaviors   Eating Disorders Review (Vol 35/No 1 Jan/Feb 2024)   While addictive behaviors and binge eating disorder (BED) do not mirror one another, some characteristics of addictive behaviors can be helpful in screening and treating people with BED. Though it is tempting to categorize the two as similar, a recent study by Alexandra Paul and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Philadelphia showed distinct differences between BED and addictive behaviors  … more

Ice cream and potato chips are just as addictive as cocaine or heroin: research   New York Post (Oct 14, 2023) by Brooke Kato — Can’t put down that bag of potato chips? Science says it’s not you, it’s the junk food. Ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, are just as addictive as nicotine, cocaine or heroin, experts say — and more than 1 in 10 people are hooked. A new analysis of 281 studies across 36 different countries has uncovered that a staggering 14% of adults are hooked on UPFs. … more

Addiction to ultra-processed food affects 14% of adults globally, experts say    The Guardian (Oct 10, 2023) by Andrew Gregory — Report’s authors also estimate about 12% of children hooked and call for further research into problem. One in seven adults and one in eight children may be hooked on ultra-processed foods (UPFs), experts have said, prompting calls for some products to be labelled as addictive. … more

Scientists says identifying some foods as addictive could shift attitudes, stimulate research  ScienceDaily  (Oct 9, 2023) – Scientists have published an analysis with a timely and controversial recommendation: It’s time for an international shift in the way we think about ultra-processed food and its addictive properties. … more

13 percent of Americans over 50 are addicted to processed foods   Washington Post (Feb 21, 2023) by Linda Searing —  Thirteen percent of the over-50 population, or about 1 in 8 people over 50, cannot control their consumption of highly processed foods — such as sweet or salty snacks, fatty foods and sugary drinks, according to a report from the University of Michigan’s ongoing National Poll on Healthy Aging. The report’s findings were based on a nationally representative sample of 2,163 people ages 50 to 80. The 13 percent were found to have two or more symptoms of addiction to highly processed foods, but nearly half of the participants (44 percent) had at least one symptom … more

One in eight Americans over 50 show signs of food addiction   ScienceDaily (Jan 30, 2023) — Much higher percentages of possible addiction to processed food seen among older adults who are overweight or experiencing poor mental health or isolation. Whether you call them comfort foods, highly processed foods, junk foods, empty calories or just some of Americans’ favorite foods and drinks, about 13% of people aged 50 to 80 have an unhealthy relationship with them, according to a new poll. … more

Highly Processed Foods ‘as Addictive’ as Tobacco   Medscape (Nov 25, 2022) by Becky McCall — Highly processed foods meet the same criteria as tobacco for addiction, and labeling them as such might benefit public health, according to a new US study that proposes a set of criteria to assess the addictive potential of some foods. … more

Women facing food insecurity could be at high risk for addiction to highly processed food   ScienceDaily (Sept 20, 2022) — Lack of access to affordable, nutrient-rich food is associated with an addictive pattern of eating that resembles substance abuse disorders, researchers report in a new study. … more

Richard Osman reveals ‘difficult journey’ with food addiction: ‘Pointless’ presenter opens up on lifelong affliction, saying at times it had left him feeling ‘directionless’    The Guardian (Dec 26, 2021) — The Pointless presenter Richard Osman has revealed he suffers from a lifelong food addiction, but is endeavouring to destigmatise the shame surrounding the affliction. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Osman told about the “difficult journey” his addictive behaviour had led him on. He said: “There hasn’t been a day of my life since the age of nine where I haven’t thought about problems with food and how it affects me. … more

Unhealthy Foods Aren’t Just Bad For You, They May Also Be Addictive   New York Times (Feb 18, 2021) by Anahad O’Connor — Food researchers debate whether highly processed foods like potato chips and ice cream are addictive, triggering our brains to overeat. Five years ago, a group of nutrition scientists studied what Americans eat and reached a striking conclusion: More than half of all the calories that the average American consumes comes from ultra-processed foods, which they defined as “industrial formulations” that combine large amounts of sugar, salt, oils, fats and other additives. … more

Evidence of behavioral, biological similarities between compulsive overeating and addiction   ScienceDaily (Oct 17, 2019) – Does yo-yo dieting drive compulsive eating? There may be a connection. According to researchers the chronic cyclic pattern of overeating followed by undereating, reduces the brain’s ability to feel reward and may drive compulsive eating. This finding suggests that future research into treatment of compulsive eating behavior should focus on rebalancing the mesolimbic dopamine system — the part of the brain responsible for feeling reward or pleasure.  … more

What is food addiction?  RobertLustig.com (2020) by By H. Theresa Wright, MS, RD, LDN and Joan Ifland, PhD (Originally published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). – Sixty-five percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and obesity causes or contributes to increased risk of numerous chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.   This paper offers potential insight into the problem by describing a new approach to understanding it, i.e. that some overeating is an addiction. … more

How Overeating Can Be an Addiction  Verywell Mind (Nov 6, 2019) by Elizabeth Hartney, PhD — Overeating is a common problem. It can lead to numerous problems, ranging from heartburn in the short term to obesity in the long term. It has also been found to be associated with many GI symptoms, including abdominal pain, particularly in the upper gastrointestinal tract, bloating, and diarrhea. Eating too much one time won’t cause obesity, but it may cause discomfort, pain, and interference with sleep. … more

Evidence of behavioral, biological similarities between compulsive overeating and addiction   ScienceDaily (Oct 17, 2019) – Does yo-yo dieting drive compulsive eating? There may be a connection. According to researchers the chronic cyclic pattern of overeating followed by undereating, reduces the brain’s ability to feel reward and may drive compulsive eating. This finding suggests that future research into treatment of compulsive eating behavior should focus on rebalancing the mesolimbic dopamine system — the part of the brain responsible for feeling reward or pleasure. … more

BED and Food Addiction   Eating Disorders Review (Vol.30/No.1) – It’s unclear how binge eating disorder (BED) and the newer concept of food addiction are related. BED is very commonly assessed by eating disorder professionals; food addiction, somewhat less often. A new tool, the Yale Food Addiction Scale, has been developed to assess for food addiction (Gearhardt and colleagues, 2011). This scale measures addictive qualities of eating behavior. It was recently revised to become the YFAS 2.0, adjusted for changes to the diagnostic criteria from DSM 5. … more

How dealing with past trauma may be the key to breaking addiction   The Guardian (Nov 24, 2018) by Joanna Moorhead – What’s your poison, people sometimes ask, but Gabor Maté doesn’t want to ask what my poison is, he wants to ask how it makes me feel. Whatever it is I’m addicted to, or ever have been addicted to, it’s not what it is but what it does – to me, to you, to anyone. He believes that anything we’ve ever craved helped us escape emotional pain. It gave us peace of mind, a sense of control and a feeling of happiness. … more

Scientists say brain implant may be the key to beating addiction  NBC News/Mach (Jan 6, 2018) by Denise Chow –What if people suffering from debilitating addiction could regain control of their lives thanks to a brain implant? We’re not there yet, but a provocative new study shows it may be possible to control the impulsive behaviors that fuel addiction by delivering electrical pulses to a specific part of the brain. The findings offer hope that one day effective treatment may be available for life-threatening addictions, crippling depression, and other destructive disorders such as severe binge eating and compulsive gambling. … more

Eating too much sugar can hurt your health, and for some it’s actually addictive   Washington Post (Dec 16, 2017) by Marlene Cimons  – Who hasn’t been in a relationship we know is bad for us, but one we just can’t quit? For many people, it’s like that with sugar. Breaking up is hard to do. “People generally know that sugar isn’t good, but they don’t appreciate how powerfully negative it really is,” says Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. “If you look at all the things in our diet we can change, pulling away from refined or added sugar will do more good than anything else.” … more

Food addiction: What to know   MNT Medical News Today (Oct 11, 2017) by Tom Seymour – Food addiction is closely associated with eating disorders, including obesity, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. One theory suggests that individuals can develop a chemical dependency to particular foods in the same way that people develop addictions to alcohol or cigarettes. … more

Can you be addicted to food?  CBC: White coat, black art (Sept 8, 2017) with Dr. Brian Goldman – The Most of us have, at one time or another, struggled to say ‘no thanks’ when it comes to food. It’s difficult to close the bag of chips or refuse the extra cookie. It’s no wonder that more than 14 million Canadians are considered overweight or obese. But is it possible that some of us are actually addicted to food, in the same way that a drug addict is addicted to cocaine? And if we are, would going to food rehab help? … more

What Cookies and Meth Have in Common  New York Times/Sunday Review (June 30, 2017) by Richard A. Friedman – As a psychiatrist, I have yet to meet a patient who enjoys being addicted to drugs or compulsively overeating. Why would anyone continue to use recreational drugs despite the medical consequences and social condemnation? What makes someone eat more and more in the face of poor health? One answer is that modern humans have designed the perfect environment to create both of these addictions. … more

Brain’s Reward Processing Disrupted in Addiction  Medscape Medical News (Feb 17, 2017) by Pauline Anderson –   Neural reward processing may be disrupted in patients with addictive behaviors, a new meta-analysis of imaging studies suggests. Compared with healthy control persons, patients with a gambling disorder (GD) or substance abuse disorder (SUD) showed decreased activation of the striatum, a core region of the brain reward circuit, during “reward anticipation.” … more

Treating sugar addiction like drug abuse: QUT leads world-first study MNT Medical News Today (Apr 8, 2016) – With obesity rates on the rise worldwide and excess sugar consumption considered a direct contributor, the search has been on for treatments to reverse the trend. Now a world-first study led by QUT may have the answer…. more

Food may be addictive: Food craving may be ‘hard-wired’ in the brain   ScienceDaily (Aug 31, 2015) – An international group of researchers have found that food craving activates different brain networks between obese and normal weight patients. This indicates that the tendency to want food may be ‘hard-wired’ into the brain of overweight patients, becoming a functional brain biomarker. … more

Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive   The New York Times (Dec 22, 2014) by James J. DiNicolantonio and Sean C. Lucan — Your co-worker brought in brownies, your daughter made cookies for a holiday party and candy is arriving from far-flung relatives. Sugar is everywhere. It is celebration, it is festivity, it is love. It’s also dangerous. In a recent study, we showed that sugar, perhaps more than salt, contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease. Evidence is growing, too, that eating too much sugar can lead to fatty liver disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and kidney disease. Yet people can’t resist. And the reason for that is pretty simple. Sugar is addictive. more …

Impulsivity is risk factor for food addiction   ScienceDaily (May 6, 2014) – Have you ever said to yourself that you would only have a handful of potato chips from the bag then, minutes later, realized you ate the whole thing? A recent study shows that this type of impulsive behavior might not be easily controlled — and could be a risk factor in the development of food addiction and eating disorders as a result of cellular activities in the part of the brain involved with reward. more …

Addicted to Sugar? 7 Steps You Need to Take Before You Can Break Free    Huffington Post (Sept  19, 2013| by Kristin Kirkpatrick – Last month, I devoted my blog to reviewing some of the more surprising adverse health outcomes associated with excess sugar consumption. While most of us know that sugar is not the best substance to load our body with, many individuals struggle with tactics in actually breaking free of their addiction to sugar — and yes, it can truly be an addiction.  Link

Addiction to unhealthy foods could help explain the global obesity epidemic, research suggests   ScienceDaily (May 22, 2013) — Research presented today shows that high-fructose corn syrup can cause behavioural reactions in rats similar to those produced by drugs of abuse such as cocaine. These results, presented by addiction expert Francesco Leri, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Guelph, suggest food addiction could explain, at least partly, the current global obesity epidemic.  Link

Binge eating may represent a sub-type of obesity most closely related to drug addiction   Medical News Today (Apr. 24, 2013) – Addiction is the continued or compulsive use of a substance, despite negative and/or harmful consequences. Over the years, addiction has come to be re-defined to include behaviors, as well as substances, and the term is now used to describe significant problems with alcohol, nicotine, drugs, gambling, internet use, and sex. The ‘major’ addictions, like alcoholism and drug abuse, stimulate significant amounts of research and are now largely well characterized, but others, like pathological gambling and internet addiction, are much less understood.   Link  

Increased brain activity predicts future onset of substance use   ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2013) — Do people get caught in the cycle of overeating and drug addiction because their brain reward centers are over-active, causing them to experience greater cravings for food or drugs?  In a unique prospective study Oregon Research Institute (ORI) senior scientist Eric Stice, Ph.D., and colleagues tested this theory, called the reward surfeit model. The results indicated that elevated responsivity of reward regions in the brain increased the risk for future substance use, which has never been tested before prospectively with humans. Paradoxically, results also provide evidence that even a limited history of substance use was related to less responsivity in the reward circuitry, as has been suggested by experiments with animals.   Link

Eating junk food while pregnant may make your child a junk food addict  ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2013) — Here’s another reason why a healthy diet during pregnancy is critical to the future health of your children: New research published in the March 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, suggests that pregnant mothers who consume junk food actually cause changes in the development of the opioid signaling pathway in the brains of their unborn children. This change results in the babies being less sensitive to opioids, which are released upon consumption of foods that are high in fat and sugar. In turn, these children, born with a higher “tolerance” to junk food need to eat more of it to achieve a “feel good” response.   Link

The extraordinary science of addictive junk food    New York Times (Feb. 20, 2013) by Michael Moss – On  the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.   Link

Internet addicts face constant temptation, non-believers:  Debate continues over legitimacy while patients try to break free and refocus on health and relationships   The Toronto Star (Feb. 1, 2013) by Josh Tapper – Inside the gym of an Internet addiction recovery centre east of Seattle, six men huff their way through an early-morning cross-fit exercise … The mental-health community is divided over whether Internet addiction actually exists, even with centres like reStart increasingly common around the world. Experts have debated its legitimacy ever since the early days of the web, in the mid-1990s.   Link

Eight surprising parallels between food and drug addictions   Food may be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol.     Psychology Today:  Real Healing  (Sep. 18, 2012) by Carolyn C. Ross, MD, MPH   Although the jury is still out, a growing body of evidence shows some striking similarities between food addiction and drug addiction:   #1 Effect on the Brain’s Reward SystemThe American Society of Addiction Medicine, the nation’s largest professional society of physicians dedicated to treating and preventing addiction, now embraces a broad definition of addiction, which encompasses not only drugs and alcohol but also “process” addictions such as food, sex and gambling. Why? Because of the effect all of these substances and behaviors have on the brain.   Link

How exercise can prime the brain for addiction New York Times (Apr. 11, 2012) by Gretchen Reynolds – Statistically, people who exercise are much less likely than inactive people to abuse drugs or alcohol. But can exercise help curb addictions? Some research shows that exercise may stimulate reward centers in the brain, helping to ease cravings for drugs or other substances. But according to an eye-opening new study of cocaine-addicted mice, dedicated exercise may in some cases make it even harder to break an addiction.  Link

Decision-making under stress: The brain remembers rewards, forgets punishments Time: Healthland (Mar. 5, 2012) by Maia Szalavitz – It’s counterintuitive, but under stress we tend to focus more on the rewards than on the risks of any decision…  A new review shows that acute stress affects the way the brain considers the pros and cons, causing it to focus on pleasure and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision.  The research has implications for everything from obesity and addictions to finance, suggesting that stress may modify the way people make choices in predictable ways.  Link

Salt appetite is linked to drug addiction, research finds   ScienceDaily (July 29, 2011) — A team of Duke University Medical Center and Australian scientists has found that addictive drugs may have hijacked the same nerve cells and connections in the brain that serve a powerful, ancient instinct: the appetite for salt.  Link

Does food act physiologically like a ‘drug of choice’ for some? ScienceDaily (July 20, 2011) — Variety is considered the “spice of life,” but does today’s unprecedented level of dietary variety help explain skyrocketing rates of obesity? Some researchers think it might…”We’ve known for years that foods- even eating, itself- can trigger release of various brain chemicals, some of which are also involved in what happens with drug addiction and withdrawal. And, as can happen with substance abusers, tolerance or “habituation” can occur, meaning that repeated use (in this case, exposure to a food) is sometimes accompanied by a lack of response (in this case, disinterest in the food). The results of the study… provides a very interesting new piece to the obesity puzzle by suggesting that meal monotony may actually lead to reduced calorie consumption. The trick will be balancing this concept with the importance of variety to good nutrition.”  Link

Evidence for ‘food addiction’ in humans   ScienceDaily (July 12, 2011) — Research to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that people can become dependent on highly palatable foods and engage in a compulsive pattern of consumption, similar to the behaviors we observe in drug addicts and those with alcoholism.  Link

Food addiction works like drug addiction in the brain  Huffington Post (Apr. 5, 2011) – Seeing a milkshake can activate the same areas of the brain that light up when an addict sees cocaine, U.S. researchers said on Monday. The study helps explain why it can be so hard for some people to maintain a healthy weight, and why it has been so difficult for drug makers and health experts to find obesity treatments that work.  Link

Depression symptoms increase over time for addiction-prone women  ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2011) — Unlike alcohol problems and antisocial behavior, depression doesn’t decline with age in addiction-prone women in their 30s and 40s — it continues to increase, a new study led by University of Michigan Health System researchers found.   Link

Food addiction: Could it explain why 70 percent of Americans are fat?  Huffington Post (Oct. 16, 2010) by Mark Hyman, MD – Our government and food industry both encourage more “personal responsibility” when it comes to battling the obesity epidemic and its associated diseases. They say people should exercise more self-control, make better choices, avoid overeating, and reduce their intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and processed food. We are led to believe that there is no good food or bad food, that it’s all a matter of balance. This sounds good in theory, except for one thing… New discoveries in science prove that industrially processed, sugar- fat- and salt-laden food — food that is made in a plant rather than grown on a plant, as Michael Pollan would say — is biologically addictive.  Link

Compulsive eating shares addictive biochemical mechanism with cocaine, heroin abuse, study shows   ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2010) — In a newly published study, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have shown for the first time that the same molecular mechanisms that drive people into drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat, pushing people into obesity.   Link

Chocoholic mice fear no pain  ScienceDaily (Feb. 11, 2010) — Ever get a buzz from eating chocolate? A study published in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience has shown that chocolate-craving mice are ready to tolerate electric shocks to get their fix.   Link

Dopamine enhances expectation of pleasure in humans  ScienceDaily (Nov. 15, 2009) — Enhancing the effects of the brain chemical dopamine influences how people make life choices by affecting expectations of pleasure, according to new research from the UCL Institute of Neurology.  The study, published in Current Biology, confirms an important role for dopamine in how human expectations are formed and how people make complex decisions. It also contributes to an understanding of how pleasure expectation can go awry, for example in drug addiction.  Link

Excessive exercise can be addicting, new study says  ScienceDaily (Aug. 18, 2009) — Although exercise is good for your health, extreme exercise may be physically addicting. Rats given a drug that produces withdrawal in heroin addicts went into withdrawal after running excessively in exercise wheels, according to new research. Rats that ran the hardest had the most severe withdrawal symptoms.   Link

Flipping the brain’s addiction switch without drugs   ScienceDaily (May 29, 2009) — When someone becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol, the brain’s pleasure center gets hijacked, disrupting the normal functioning of its reward circuitry.  Researchers investigating this addiction “switch” have now implicated a naturally occurring protein, a dose of which allowed them to get rats hooked with no drugs at all.  Link

Food dance gets new life when bees get cocaine   New York Times: Science (Jan 5, 2009) by Pam Belluck — Buzz has a whole new meaning now that scientists are giving bees cocaine.  To learn more about the biochemistry of addiction, scientists in Australia dropped liquefied freebase cocaine on bees’ backs, so it entered the circulatory system and brain. The scientists found that bees react much like humans do: cocaine alters their judgment, stimulates their behavior and makes them exaggeratedly enthusiastic about things that might not otherwise excite them.  Link

Sugar can be addictive: animal studies show sugar dependence  ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2008) — A Princeton University scientist will present new evidence today demonstrating that sugar can be an addictive substance, wielding its power over the brains of lab animals in a manner similar to many drugs of abuse.  Link

Measuring brain activity in people eating chocolate offers new clues about how the body becomes addicted  ScienceDaily (Aug. 29, 2001) — Using positron emission tomography scans to measure brain activity in people eating chocolate, a team of U.S. and Canadian neuroscientists believe they have identified areas of the brain that may underlie addiction and eating disorders.   Link

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