With obesity being as evidently rampant as it is in this country, with rates hovering in the 25 percent range for the entire country, and eating disorders and general nutritional decline being what it is, it is difficult to imagine that there are still medical and psychological professionals that lend a skeptical eye when it comes to the existence of food addiction. While alcoholism and substance abuse have, for the most part, been widely accepted as a medical diagnosis, and not just an example of a weak constitution, the sort of pathological eating that comprises a food addiction is often seen as a failure of willpower. In essence, people with food addiction, along with getting little satisfaction, also get little respect.
Sure, there are portions of the population who indulge a bit too often, eat in a manic fashion, and occasionally gorge on food they are well aware is nutritionally deficient, but a person suffering from food addiction is all that and more. Yale University researchers have claimed to find evidence that there is a distinct difference between so-called food addicts and simple overeaters, and the evidence is compelling. As reported in The Wall Street Journal earlier in the week, Yale University research scientists used a magnetic resonance imaging scan to observe the brains of pathological eaters versus normal eaters, the study found that showing a milkshake to the abnormal group was akin to dangling a cold beer in front of an alcoholic. They came up with a 26-question Yale Food Addiction Scale, a two-year-old test designed to identify pathological eaters, which singles out participants with addictive eating behaviors. These participants who scored high were then put through an MRI machine, which revealed that they had dramatically greater neurological responses to indulgent foods (like a milkshake) than the others who participated in the study but did not score nearly as high on the 26-question test.
Some of this may not come to any surprise for those living with a food addiction, or at least familiar with the topic. These people are no doubt familiar with the trials of their particular addiction and what images and stimulus tend to set them off. One aspect of the study that is of particular importance is the evidence that, as with drug addiction and alcoholism, there exists no easy solution or cure for such addiction. ” In cases where the underlying problem is addiction, psychiatrists say that neither gastric-bypass surgery nor lifestyle changes are likely to prove effective. Among addicted eaters, “the current emphasis on personal responsibility…may have minimal effectiveness,” concluded the Yale paper on the subject.
Not exactly good news for those who are battling with food addiction, but possibly a small step towards legitimacy. This study comes at a time when American psychiatry is wrestling with whether to regard pathological eating as an addiction akin to alcoholism. Do you believe that food addiction is an actual addiction, or something closer to a pathological response to a culture of limitless indulgence? Have you, or a friend or family member, struggled with something close to food addiction, and if so, is there anything in these findings that support what you have discovered in your battle with food?