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Book claims food can be as addictive as drugs, cigarettes and alcohol


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About two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has spurred awareness of food addiction around the country. But a new book claims food can be just as addictive as drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

“Food and Addiction: A Comprehensive Handbook” is the first book to compile academic essays describing the science behind this controversial eating disorder.  

Yale public health and policy researcher Kelly Brownell, the book’s primary editor, brought together experts in nutrition, addiction, psychology, epidemiology and public health to review their individual research and publish their findings. The book posits that certain foods hijack the brain in ways similar to drugs and alcohol, and that the effect is sufficiently strong to contribute to major diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Food addiction is already a subject of ongoing research at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute. Mark Gold, who co-edited the book with Brownell, is an addiction expert and a professor at UF’s College of Medicine. He said specialists are beginning to investigate the problem of food addiction after brain imaging studies and multidisciplinary research supported the fact that food addiction is a serious issue.

Gold said the nation is enveloped in a ‘globesity’ epidemic – a global obesity epidemic – and that public health approaches and preventions are necessary. He added that looking at food, drugs, alcohol and addictive substances the same way makes it easier to treat food addiction tendencies.

“If we develop brain imaging models and laboratory models that show the similarities between food and drugs, then we should be able to make treatments that are used for drug abuse and apply them to food addicts,” Gold said.

George Pappas edited this story online. 


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