Does Food Addiction Really Exist?

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We see many people around talking about how disgusting is to have an addiction, some of them consider themselves as superheroes because they don´t smoke or drink. But are there any other types of addictions? Are only addictive? Does food addiction really exist?

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What is to be addicted?

Addiction is defined as a treatable, chronic medical illness involving complex interactions among genetics, brain circuits, and the environment.

People who suffer addiction might become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.

Why do we get addicted?

We always want to repeat experiences that make us feel good. It could be because we have accomplished a goal, completed a project at work, or something as simple as eating a bar of tasty chocolate or taking a sip of wine.

It could be something like going shopping, dancing or having a puff of a cigarette.

Those experiences don’t automatically lead to addiction.

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Then, how does it happen?

Addiction is similar to any other chronic disorder, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

And just like other chronic diseases, addiction is both preventable and treatable.

Dopamine is a molecule that transports messages across the brain’s reward center.

It’s what gives people a feeling of pleasure.

It reinforces behaviors for survival, such as eating food and having sex, as well.

When someone uses a drug or engages in a pleasurable experience.

Different drugs tap into the dopamine reward system in different ways.

Marijuana and heroin have a chemical structure similar to other neurotransmitters and can trick some brain cells into activating neurons that use dopamine.

Cocaine and amphetamines, on the other hand, prolong the effect of dopamine on its target neurons, disrupting normal communication in the brain.


But, is food a drug?

Well, no it is not a drug… it is an important element to survive. But, it has similar characteristics and can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine.

The similarities between food and drug addictions are remarkable.

High-fat, high-calorie foods excite the pleasure centers in the brain.

You feel really good when you eat them.

The more we eat these types of foods, the more we desire them to activate these pleasure centers.

Additionally, as drug addicts develop a tolerance for a certain drug, people who show signs of food addiction develop a tolerance for certain foods.

If you feel full, but you continue eating, food is not any more food it turns into a drug.

And it’s not just people struggling with weight issues who can become addicted.

People who maintain normal weight can also lose control of their eating behaviors.

But are there any specific foods that make us addicted?

Additive foods are full of sugars and fats and make us feel good and wonderful.

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Some of them are:

  • Pizza
  • Packaged cookies
  • Ice cream
  • French fries
  • Chocolate
  • Soft drinks
  • Cake
  • Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Fried chicken
  • Popcorn


How to recognize if you have a food addiction?

The Yale Food Addiction Scale is a test that doctors use to identify potential food addictions.

If you are a concern that you might have a problem, you can take this test or ask yourself the following questions;

  • Do you eat even when you are full?
  • Do you go out of your way to enjoy certain foods when they aren’t readily available in your home?
  • Do you find yourself finishing off a bag of chips or package of cookies when you intended to only eat a few?
  • Do you have intense cravings?
  • Do you recognize that certain foods are harder than others for you to stop eating?
  • Do you choose to eat rather than spend time with friends and family?
  • Do you avoid activities and events that you once enjoyed because of a fear of overeating?
  • Has your overeating restricted your lifestyle?

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What can I do to curb my food addiction?

Like any other addiction, food addiction requires that you look for help.

Discuss your concerns with someone you trust on, find a doctor, who will likely prescribe a change in diet and counseling with behavioral therapies.

Food is delicious it is part of our life, in Costa Rica we enjoy eating at any moment to share with family and friends.

But, we also understand how important is to be healthy.

In Spanish Pura Vida we are concern about you.

Come and visit us, we want to know your opinion.