Want another burger? You could be addicted to food
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Friday 07 September 2012
Food addiction could be one of the reasons behind the rising number of individuals suffering from eating disorders and obesity, scientists have said.
Food is not currently included in the official diagnostic manual of addictive substances, but scientists believe excessive over-eating shares many of the psychological characteristics associated with other addictions, such as gambling and compulsive stealing.
A €6m project is under way to determine whether over-eating can be categorised as a potentially addictive behaviour. This could lead to certain foods being classed as addictive, alongside alcohol and drugs, said Professor Julian Mercer of Aberdeen University.
"How and why food could be addictive is being explored to ascertain whether this is one of the reasons why people eat too much and develop obesity," Professor Mercer said.
In the next five years, the NeuroFast project will bring together experts from across Europe to determine if overeating should be treated similarly to other addictive behaviour. "If we can reach a consensus on how overeating should be classified, this could lead to major changes in treatment and public policy surrounding obesity," Professor Mercer told the British Science Festival. "It would help to clarify if food addiction is a route to binge eating or obesity."
Professor Mercer explained that compulsive overeating shares many of the features of other addictive behaviour, and the most likely people to suffer food addiction are the estimated one in 200 individuals who develop severe eating disorders associated with obesity.
"This would most likely fit in at the extreme end with people who have binge-like eating disorders," Professor Mercer said. "Palatable food is appealing because it activates reward centres in the brain, triggering signalling molecules in the opioid and dopamine systems. These same systems are triggered when we use drugs or alcohol."
Case study: 'Gastric band saved my life'
Actress Tina Malone, one of the stars of Channel 4's "Shameless", admits food addiction almost killed her. At 5ft 1in she weighed 19 stone and her health was suffering.
She successfully gave up alcohol, which nearly became her nemesis, but food was a different matter. "I was the classic emotional eater. I would eat if I was bored and would eat if I was happy. I couldn't just have one Kit Kat, I would have to have four or five. After a takeaway I would often have another one," she said. "I know how that sounds and people must have wondered why I couldn't just stop eating. I am an intelligent woman – don't you think if it was that easy I would have done that?"
She had a gastric band fitted in 2010 and has since lost 10 stone. "It saved my life," she said.
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
Jennifer Lawrence: Leaked 4Chan sex video branded 'fake' by users
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...