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The experts say it’s official: fatty foods and sugar are not addictive in the same way drugs are. Over the years, a minority of chocoholics, binge eaters and fast food enthusiasts have blamed food addiction for their bulging waistlines. However, a group of scientists are trying to finally put that “myth” to bed.
They’ve recently discovered people are definitely not “addicted” to fat or sugar in the way drugs users are to cocaine and heroine. That sounds like a pretty bold, yet obvious statement, but I suppose they’re trying to drill home the point about substance abuse and food addiction being poles apart.
According to scientists, overweight individuals are addicted to eating and form a psychological impulse to devour food, driven by the positive feelings this elicits in the brain. No convincing evidence was found for people being hooked to chemical substances in particular foods, i.e. crisps, chocolate and processed food.
Research fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Integrative Physiology, Dr John Menzies said: “People try to find rational explanations for being overweight and it’s easy to blame food.” He’s either trying to say people are looking for excuses or they’re wasting their time looking for answers. This intriguing research, which studied the science behind food compulsion as a substance-based addiction, was issued in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.
Maybe Menzies has a point. If you take smoking as an example, some smokers say they are “addicted” to lighting up the cigarette, flicking the ashes, and breathing in tobacco in addition to nicotine. E-cigarettes, which miss these components, just don’t deliver the same experience.
These new scientific discoveries confirm the focus needs to be moved away from food itself towards people’s personal relationship with eating. In a nutshell, they’re arguing: overindulging in junk food is a behavioural disorder, similar to a gambling addiction. If that’s to be believed, Black Jack sweets seem like the worst evil now.
Spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, Tam Fry, is standing his ground: “Junk foods are as addictive as drugs in their own way. I cannot understand why these scientists would say that eating is addictive but sugar and fat are not.” Seeing that fat and sugar are constantly used by food manufacturers as a guaranteed way of getting consumers hooked on their products, this seems like a fair point. Ready-salted crisps without the added salt are hardly going to sell as profitably, let alone taste as good with a can of sugary coke.
If some people maintain the argument that certain chemicals do entice you to food, it’s important to seek treatment, stay clear of them or eat them very sparingly. Why not start treating these chemically addictive foods like alcohol and tobacco then? Somebody out there is probably designing a burger replacement patch treatment as I write this.