Friday, July 20, 2007

Food Addiction

Carbohydrates on the Brain, Food Rehab in the Future

Earlier this month, Yale University hosted the first-ever conference on Food and Addiction. Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse told the collection of experts on nutrition, obesity and drug addiction that “commonalities in the brain’s reward mechanisms” linked compulsive eating with addictive drug use. “Impaired function of the brain dopamine system could make some people more vulnerable to compulsive eating,” Volkow said.

Moreover, animal studies and brain imaging research in humans strongly support the notion of food addiction. In particular, research has pointed toward a form of food addiction known as “carbohydrate-craving obesity.” Dr. Mark Gold, chief of addiction studies at the McKnight Institute at the University of Florida, and a well-known authority on cocaine abuse, argued that “failed diets and attempts to control overeating, preoccupation with food and eating, shame, anger, and guilt look like traditional addictions.”

Conference organizer Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, conceded that “it wasn’t obesity experts who got interested in addiction, it was the addiction scientists who got interested in food.” Brownell suggested that psychologists have been slower to grasp the import of food addiction “in part because of a bias that obesity is all about failure and personal responsibility, so why look at biology?”

As Dr. Gold summed it up, “It turns out that food and drugs compete for the same reward system in the brain.”


--“Yale Hosts Historic Conference on Food and Addiction.” Yale University Office of Public Affairs. July 9, 2007.

--Hellmich, Nancy. “Does food ‘addiction’ explain explosion of obesity?” USA Today, July 9, 2007.

--“Yale Hosts Historic Conference on Food Addiction.” Medical News Today. 11 July 2007.

--Hathaway, William. “Experts Chew Over Eating as Addiction.” The Hartford Courant. July 11, 2007.

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