NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — We’ve all been there, at least to some degree, feeling a lack of control with certain foods, a sense of not being able to stop, no matter how full we feel. The discussion around food addiction has been somewhat controversial, but there’s a growing body of research that supports the concept of food addiction as a legitimate, science-based addiction.

Here’s the rundown from Molly’s in-depth interview with Ashley Gearhardt, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Director of the Food Addiction Science and Treatment Laboratory at the University of Michigan and developer of the Yale Food Addiction Scale, a 25-point questionnaire used to identify symptoms of dependency towards certain foods.

Not surprisingly, the foods most linked to addictive-type responses are ultra-processed food, specifically those high in both fat and sugar. These ultra-processed foods activate our brain’s reward system in a way similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and opiates.

Food addiction stems from multiple factors, says Gearhardt, including:

  1. Our individual predisposition to addictive behavior, including impulsivity, depression and family history of addiction.
  2. The substance – in this case, ultra-processed foods with that carb-fat combo activate our brains like addictive drugs.”
  3. Environmental influence –our food environment is now dominated by highly processed industrial food; they currently make up an estimated 60% of our daily intake.

Breaking the Cycle

Start by identifying triggers, says Gearhardt.  It may be specific food triggers; it can also be situational triggers – the people, places or things that trigger the overconsumption.

Meeting with a registered dietitian and behavioral therapist can help develop sustainable strategies and support lasting behavior change.

And finally, advocating for policy change, says Gearhardt, with the goal of supporting “a culture that truly promotes health, not just profits at the cost of our wellbeing.”

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Want more?  Check out Molly’s interview with Ashley Gearhardt, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Director of the Food Addiction Science and Treatment Laboratory at the University of Michigan and developer of the Yale Food Addiction Scale.

Read more about the topic of food addiction in Medical News Today.

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Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.

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