Before determining if food overconsumption can be considered an addiction we must first attempt to define addiction.
Recent studies on humans has shown carbohydrate cravings, with the largest empirical evidence, is characterized by an overwhelming drive to habitually seek and over consume carbohydrate rich, low protein foods in response to anxiety, depressive, and restless mood (Chopra, 1991).
Carbohydrate cravers learn through experience that carbohydrate rich snacks will improve negative mood leading to the implication of overindulgence being a maladaptive behavior (Spring et al. 2008). Upon further investigation studies show that liking for the carbohydrates grow over time (sensitized) whereas the impact on dispelling negative mood decreased (tolerance) over repeated exposure showing the abuse potential observed for addictive drugs (Spring et al. 2008).
Genetic disposition plays a role in all addictions (Davidson, 2011). Studies indicate HCF and drugs activate the same dopamine reward system in the brain even though ingested differently (Kelley & Berridge, 2002). Numerous studies have found a positive correlation between addiction and sluggish dopamine systems (Levitan, & Davis, 2010). Brain dopamine activity (DA) is implicated in reward and motivation pathways of the brain (Levitan, & Davis, 2010). HCF has the potential to induce the release of DA which in turn creates more pleasurable subjective feelings, therefore being more rewarding (Grigson, 2002). There may be no chemical dependence due to abstinence yet the reward system of the brain creates the desire for the substance when in social trigger situations.
Food Overconsumption:<br />Is It An Addiction?<br />Angela Pool-Graham<br />PSY 492<br />
What Is Addiction?<br />“Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance”(“Addiction”, 2011a) <br />“The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something”(“Addiction”, 2011a) <br />“a chronic relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug seeking and abuse and by long lasting chemical changes in the brain” ("Addiction," 2011b)<br />“Uncontrollable drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences” (Spring, Schneider, Smith, Kendzor, Appelhans, Hedeker & Pagoto, 2008, p. 638). <br />
Food as drug of choice.<br />Buffer from our emotional pain.<br />As a relief of negative or low mood<br />Overconsumption of high caloric foods (HCF) leads to carbohydrate dependence (Avena, Rada, & Hoebel, 2008). <br />
Your brain on food<br />Genetic disposition of sluggish dopamine system.(Levitan, & Davis, 2010). <br />Same pleasure pathways of other addictive drugs <br /> (Kelley & Berridge, 2002).<br />Vulnerability for overconsumption induced weight gain is proving to be an individual trait just as alcohol addiction (Pickering, Alsiö, Hulting, & Schiöth, 2009).<br />
Is food really addictive?<br />The prevailing argument as to whether food overconsumption is an addiction to food stems from the fact not all food inspires addictive behavior. Food can be easily defined as any substance ingested to provide nutritional support. When applying this definition of food to the term substance addiction then there are arguments that arise to imply food in general is not addictive because of the variety of substances that are used to define what we use to nourish the body. People are not addicted to broccoli, or other vegetables they want and desire HCF’s that contain fat, sugar, and salt (Morgan, 2010). <br />
Conclusion<br />Given the results of this literature review, there are additives and nutritional components of high caloric, highly palatable foods that fit the criteria for addiction. These foods cause weight gain and have the strongest effect on alleviating negative mood states (Levitan, & Davis, 2010).As with other addictive substances there seems to be populations of individuals that are predisposed to addiction to high caloric foods. It is not just a biological drive to nourish the body; food has a hedonic quality for some individuals. Food in general terms is not harmful yet abused to the extent that we are becoming a culture of obese individuals. HCF is in fact an addictive substance for some individuals. <br />
Reference<br />Addiction. (2011a). In Medicinenet.com. Retrieved January 28, 2011, from <br /> http://medicinenet.com/drug_abuse/glossery.htm<br />Addiction. (2011b.). The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. Retrieved January 30, 2011, from<br /> Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/addiction<br />Avena NM, Rada, P. Hoebel, BG. (2008) Evidence For Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects<br /> of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake. Neuroscience Biobehavioral Rev 32(1):20-39<br /> OI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.04.019<br />Kelley, AE, & Berridge, KC. (2002) The Neuroscience of Natural Rewards: Relevance to Addictive Drugs. J Neuroscience<br /> 22:3306-3311<br />Levitan, R. D., & Davis, C. (2010). Emotions and Eating Behavior: Implications for the Current Obesity Epidemic. <br /> University of Toronto Quarterly, 79(2), 783-799. doi:10.3138/UTQ.79.2.783<br />Pickering, C., Alsiö, J., Hulting, A., & Schiöth, H. (2009). Withdrawal from free-choice high-fat high-sugar diet induces<br /> craving only in obesity-prone animals. Psychopharmacology, 204(3), 431-443. doi:10.1007/s00213-009-1474-y<br />