Food Addicts: Study Measures the Addiction



A study of food addicts measures the level of addiction in women nationwide. The notion that an individual can be addicted to foodstuff has gotten more support from the science community. New research explores that the profile of a food addict goes beyond the fondness of eating cake and cookies.

The Nurse’s Health Study researched food addiction in 134,000 women. Nearly six percent of the women met the 2009 Yale Food Addiction Scale benchmarks. Within the group of middle-aged and older women, the middle-aged ones fared the worst. Slightly more than eight per cent of women between the ages of 45 to 64 were considered food addicts. Only three percent of the older women in the analysis met the criteria.

According to addiction specialist, Ashley Gearhardt, University of Michigan assistant professor of psychology, researchers are beginning to understand the food addiction patterns found in other addictions. One of the similarities that have been determined is that younger people are affected with more “addiction problems.”

The study also revealed that women who fell into the food addiction category were more likely to be unmarried and did not smoke; former smokers, it had been assumed, had exchanged one addiction for another, a process termed “addiction transference.”

When measuring the addiction, the research data from the study shows that food addiction does not just affect women with a higher body mass index (BMI), but also food addicts ranging from underweight to average-weight. The correlation with a negative relationship with food and geography also comes into play. While researchers do not know why, women with less food addiction issues originate from the eastern United States, and those with a greater one come from the Midwest or South.


In the study, women with the food addiction favored “hyper-palatable” indulgences. The foods of choice were high in salt, sugar, fat and processing. These food picks seemed to “trigger the brain’s pleasure” and reward it. In a similar pattern to addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin, it increased the “feel-good” chemical, dopamine.

The main assumption with addiction is that the person has no self-control. However, Gearhart reveals that is not an accurate assessment. As one of the developers of the Yale Food Addiction Scale, she states that certain foods “hijack the system,” in the right person. The reward signals from tasty foods may dominate an individual’s sense of feeling sated and fulfilled. Consequently, the individuals keep consuming food even when they are not hungry. The study allows her, and other food addict specialists to better comprehend and identify which individuals are more susceptible.

Because such a large populous was examined, the study’s statistics may hold significant scientific implications. Yale University director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Marlene Schwartz, believes that they now have a “distinct subset of individuals” that grapples with an addiction, bearing similarities to substance abuse. The study also demonstrates that food addiction cannot be controlled by simply telling individuals to exercise more and eat better in order to abstain from overeating.

While this study measures the addiction of food addicts, it also acknowledges that while people can find themselves continuing to consume selected foods, they may not be equipped to have the strength of mind to stop.

by Dawn Levesque







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