Food Addiction in the United States

Since a 1956 study authored by Theron Randolph was published in the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, researchers have established links between certain foods and addiction.  According to Randolph and other more recent scientific research studies, processed foods and foods that contained high levels of sugar, salt, or preservatives had higher patterns of addiction. Such study results concluded that lab rats used by researchers in the experiments not only developed behavior patterns associated with addiction but also showed neurochemical changes compared to those experiencing drug use.

Food as an Addictive Substance

Food addiction, may be more problematic than some experts believe. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, the food that people are consuming is biologically addictive, which makes it more difficult for people to control. Therefore, although government and food industry representatives promote restraint, responsibility, and self-accountability in the consumption of food products, over-eating is more serious than just a lack of a balanced diet. Hyman suggests that approaching diet and balanced food intake without taking into consideration the addictive properties of processed, high-sugar, and high-salt foods is like asking a cocaine addict to stop consuming the drug.

Using a supplement may be able to help. Lipodrene, for example, is a fat burner that enhances the body’s metabolism and aids in burning fat. When combined with an exercise routines, many individuals successfully lose weight. With food addiction, however, behavior must change as well. People are fooling themselves by thinking that food addiction can be treated with a simple diet and exercise routine. Even if individuals are set on taking supplements, counting calories consumed, and running a couple of miles a day, the addictive power of the substances processed by the body and the neurochemical changes in the brain will lead to relapses similar to those seen in patients addicted to cocaine.

To establish a diagnosis of addiction, medical professionals often use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The guide helps to review the criteria diagnose the condition properly. The criteria for addiction include: the development of withdrawal symptoms, unsuccessful attempts at quitting, continual use even with knowing the negative consequences, build-up of tolerance, among others. Each of these criteria matches the characteristics displayed by individuals addicted to food. Other researchers have developed similar instruments to determine food addiction. For example, Merlo, Klingman, Malasanos, and Silverstein, in a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, developed a questionnaire assessing the addiction where criteria included compulsive use, attempts at quitting, and continual use despite knowledge of negative consequences. The medical evidence that suggests that industrial and processed foods are addictive substances cannot be ignored.

Combating Addiction

To combat the obesity epidemic in the United States, experts must face the problem in the same manner that drug addiction is faced.  Experts in the field need to continue to develop programs that assist patients in all areas of addiction, including psychological assistance to reduce and finally eliminate the dependence on the substances. Furthermore, such programs must address the lifestyle changes that addicts will need make to avoid relapses. Individuals addicted to food must stop viewing themselves as culprits as no one wants to be addicted to a substance. People facing the problem need to seek an interventionist and treat the problem as an ongoing struggle that requires modification in behavior.

Once doctors treat patients suffering from the condition, individuals can successfully make lifestyle choices such as developing healthy eating habits and following an exercise routine. Such routines can help promote health as individuals who regularly exercise and eat a balanced diet are less likely to engage in risky behavior that involves food. Therefore, the fact that people are eating better and living an active life will end up promoting restraint. Nevertheless, combating the problem begins by treating the addiction.