Food Addiction – a Dangerously Underestimated Issue
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How to Kill Food Addiction, the Life-Threatening Problem of Millions?
Today, about 2.1 billion humans are suffering from obesity which increases cardiovascular diseases, cancer and depression, and many other diseases. How has obesity become one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century?
There are a few answers to this question:
- Ingredients in processed food
- Technology related to inactive lifestyle
- Food addiction
How do we get addicted to specific foods?
How Does our Brain Decide What to eat?
Our brain works simply. If something is beneficial, it’s accepted, if not, it’s rejected. For centuries humans were not able to find food easily. Therefore, those who could seek and find food passed their genes onto future generations. Hundreds of generations later, when it comes to food, our brain has developed a way to communicate with the body. Highly sugary food and drinks increase levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It, in turn, increases the activity of our reward system.
However, that what seems beneficial to our brain, in time can end up causing problems for us. Why? Because, just like with drugs, we start to build dependence and tolerance, meaning that the brain grows accustomed to the high levels of dopamine it releases. To achieve this, it needs more and more of the substance, in this case- food. Over time, we eat more and more as the reward becomes smaller and smaller. At the same time, the reward center and the prefrontal cortex is hijacked, affecting control, decision making, and judgment.
A Very Serious Problem
According to studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, when scans were compared, food addicts showed the same changes in their brains as cocaine addicts. This just highlights the dangerous nature of food addiction.
The short-term physical effect associated with dopamine and endogenous opiate release in the brain reward center is low-level euphoria, a decrease in both anxiety and emotional pain. However, the psychological effects can last years, leading to even bigger issues than before the addiction. Often relationships with family and friends are strongly affected, as food becomes a priority. It takes over every aspect of life, making a person unable to function in society.
One May Have Food Addiction If The Following Symptoms Are Noticed:
- Continuing to eat certain foods even if no longer hungry, even to the point of feeling sick
- Gorging on more food than one can physically tolerate
- Trying to hide consumption from others
- Avoiding social interactions, relationships, or functions to spend time eating certain foods
- Issues functioning in a job due to lower levels of efficiency
- Spending large amounts of money buying certain foods to binge on
- Decreased energy, chronic fatigue
- Sleep disorders
- Difficulty concentrating
- Digestive disorders
- Suicidal ideations
Food Addiction Questionnaire
Experts developed the questionnaire below about actions describing food addiction. If any of these actions relate to life, one may have a food addiction.
If a person:
- End up eating more than planned when starting eating certain foods
- Keep eating certain foods even if no longer hungry
- Eat to the point of feeling ill
- Worry about not eating certain types of foods or worry about cutting down on certain types of foods
- When certain foods aren’t available, go out of the way to obtain them
If there are YESes to one or more of these questions, one may have a food addiction. A person may consider visiting a specialist to catch this disease before it progresses. But don’t worry, what’s important is being able to admit it. That’s the first step to recovery.
Treating Food Addiction
Living with any addiction is difficult and potentially life-threatening. Its effects on a person’s health, career, family, and future are tremendous and often severe. Also, addiction is rarely resolved on its own. Food addiction is no exception. That’s why early intervention and treatment is imperative. Here at AddictionResource.com we’ll help one find the perfect treatment designed to help re-establish a healthy relationship with food and allow one return to a healthy and nourishing life.
To learn more about eating disorders and addiction, click here.
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- Rudd Center for Food Science and Policy, Yale University: “Food and Addiction”
Where do calls go
Calls to our general hotline may be answered by Niznik Behavioral Health or other private treatment providers.