Can Addiction To Food Exist?


-By A. Scott Roberts
M.S. Rehabilitation Counseling

Researchers from the University of Lexembourg conducted a study on women who had weight problems. They found that the women with weight problems had brains that were stimulated by food more than women that were at an appropriate weight. Both groups were shown pictures of food. The women with weight problems had brains that were activated in very similar ways to alcoholic and drug addicted brains are when looking at alcohol or drugs.

The truth is, a cigarette to a smoker or a beer bottle to an alcoholic spikes chemicals in the brain, its a primer. Researchers have found that these "triggers" (AKA "primers") actually give the user a seductive pull for their drug of choice.1 In the research, participants were shown images of junk food such as a pizza or cake along with pictures of non-foods such as a shoe and a sock.

This research was done after the participants ate food so that they were full, eliminating confounding variables. However, the results also showed that the women with weight problems craved food regardless of just having eaten. Researchers concluded that this is very characteristic of addiction and that the overweight individuals may have a "predisposition to binge eating."

Additionally, people often over-eat to compensate a void or a craving to gain comfort.

"All addictions are similar in that the sufferer craves to excess the feel-good buzz they receive from chemical neurotransmitters produced when they eat, gamble, smoke, have sex or take drugs." (Claus Voegele / Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology)

-A. Scott Roberts
M.S. Rehabilitation Counseling


1. Cause of Smokers’ Cravings Revealed by Brain Scans;, March 21, 2007.

2. Adrian Meule, Annika P. C. Lutz, Vera Krawietz, Judith Stützer, Claus Vögele, and Andrea Kübler. Food-cue affected motor response inhibition and self-reported dieting success: a pictorial affective shifting task. Frontiers in Psychology, 2014; 5