Research Update

An international team of scientists has found no strong evidence for people being addicted to the chemical substances in certain foods. “…there is very little evidence to indicate that humans can develop a “Glucose/Sucrose/Fructose Use Disorder” as a diagnosis within the DSM-5 category Substance Use Disorders. We do, however, view both rodent and human data as consistent with the existence of addictive eating behavior,” they conclude.

The brain does not respond to nutrients in the same way as it does to addictive drugs such as heroin or cocaine, the researchers say. Instead, people can develop a psychological compulsion to eat, driven by the positive feelings that the brain associates with eating. This is a behavioural disorder and could be categorised alongside conditions such as gambling addiction, say scientists at the University of Edinburgh. They add that the focus on tackling the problem of obesity should be moved from food itself towards the individual's relationship with eating.

Dr John Menzies, Research Fellow in the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Integrative Physiology, said: “People try to find rational explanations for being over-weight and it is easy to blame food. Certain individuals do have an addictive-like relationship with particular foods and they can over-eat despite knowing the risks to their health. More avenues for treatment may open up if we think about this condition as a behavioural addiction rather than a substance-based addiction.”

Professor Suzanne Dickson, of the University of Gothenburg and co-ordinator of the NeuroFAST project, added: “There has been a major debate over whether sugar is addictive. There is currently very little evidence to support the idea that any ingredient, food item, additive or combination of ingredients has addictive properties.”

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