It comes as no surprise that if you are addicted to something there are going to be changes in brain activity that clearly shows up on brain scans. Nora D. Volkow, M.D. the director of the national Institute on Drug Abuse analyzed dopamine levels in obese adults. The results of these scans advanced the theory of potential addiction to food.
In October of 2011, researchers at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, Oregon updated the original 2001 research. They noticed during MRIs, that regions of the brain directly related to reward and the senses were brighter in obese who anticipated a chocolate milkshake more so than when they were actually drinking the milkshake. This was not the case with the MRIs of those leaner girls participating in the study.
This would indicate that people who find food to be exciting are more likely to eat more, which results in weight gain. Going back to the original research findings in October 2011, the results of the MRIs clearly show that the more you eat high-fat and high sugar foods the less your brain responds to these foods. The outcome of such a situation is a greater internal demand for these types of foods, which ultimately results in eating more to achieve the same feeling of pleasure.
At this point is important to note that not all members of the American Psychiatric Association subscribe to the food addiction theory and it has not been formally recognized as such by this association. The objective evidence that food addiction exists is presently lacking, which leads us down the road to a question of whether not the possibility of food addiction contributes greatly to the epidemic of obesity in our nation or not.
Even though investigation into the theory of food addiction is continuing, there have been only a few studies on its prevalence. Recently investigators at Yale University developed a questionnaire that helps identify people showing signs of addiction to high fat and sugar foods.
Their research is leaning towards a comparatively small percentage of individuals within a wide range of weight categories that may actually be addicted to food. This 2011 study found that just about 11% of college students in the normal weight ranges may be considered addicted to food. Contrast this study with one recently conducted in Germany that found of the 750 people studied using the Yale University questionnaire nearly 38% of the obese participants and 14% of those overweight were addicted to food. They went so far as to say that 10% of the underweight participants and 6% in the normal weight categories in the study were also addicted to food.
As far as Kelly Brownell, PhD., Director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is concerned “ there's no longer any question about that in my mind” when asked about the concept of food and addiction being a viable source contributing to the obesity situation currently exploding in our nation.
If you feel that you may be addicted to food or any other substance, take time to set up an appointment with your healthcare provider and get help.