5 food addiction myths debunked

Food addictionCC: Joenomias at Pixabay

As a society, we’re excellent at recognizing some addictions and snubbing others. One of the most controversial types is the food addiction.

While some may see a food addict as lacking in control, that isn’t always the case. As a condition that’s about much more than being greedy at a buffet, food addiction is a serious issue.

If you’re yet to accept that this condition does exist, you’re not alone. But, if you want to learn more about it, here are five of the biggest food addiction myths:

You can’t form an addiction to food

As the experts at Harvard University have kindly explained, the neurological mechanisms behind addiction are seriously complicated. At one stage, medics believed addictions formed as a result of increased dopamine. Said dopamine would flood the brain’s reward center, causing addicts to crave more of the causative substance. Neuroimaging studies have since revealed that any substance that induces pleasure can form addictions.

To stop a food addiction, you just need to diet


When an ex-smoker takes a puff of a cigarette, it’s likely they’ll reform their addiction. Exposure to the addictive substance triggers the brain’s reward center, making it difficult to execute self-control.

As you’ve probably guessed, escaping food is easier said than done. It’s something we all need to survive, which means cold turkey quitting isn’t an option. Like other addictions, the person suffering from it could benefit from psychotherapy and support groups.

There’s no scientific evidence supporting food addiction

At the turn of the 21st century, researchers in the United States began looking at the neural mechanisms behind food addiction. After exposing rats to addictive junk foods and withdrawing them, they showed signs of the same withdrawal mechanisms that opioid addicts experience. Additionally, some rats showed signs of tolerance, which is another trait that’s common amongst addicts.

There’s no way of identifying food addicts

Throughout medicine (especially psychiatry), doctors can use questionaires that determine a patient’s health state. The experts over at Yale University have produced a Food Addiction Scale (it’s officially known as the Yale Food Addiction Scale). Like other medical scales, its aim is to create a baseline for what constitutes a food addiction.

The consequences aren’t as negative as other addiction disorders

First of all, it’s worth acknowledging that the effects of any addiction disorder is highly subjective. For example, some people can remain as high functioning alcoholics while others find themselves homeless. As for food addictions, they carry the physical side effects you may expect. For example, cardiovascular diseases, Type II diabetes, and cirrhosis following fatty liver disease.

On an emotional or social level, someone with a food addiction may struggle to cope. For example, if they sense the shame that surrounds their condition and choose to spend time at home eating rather than working or socializing, they risk isolating themselves. They may also continue to eat despite receiving warnings about immediate medical consequences. If the issue causes tension with family members, they may see their relationships fall apart.

While it’s not a diagnosis many want to recognize, food addiction is very much real.  If you believe you’re suffering from one, or a family member is, approach your family doctor for an official diagnosis and help.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.