Food Addiction Found Similar to Drug Addiction
A recent study of snacking among healthy and obese women showed that it is not the type of snack they eat, but who is eating it that determines how much will be desired. The women in the study were all given a sinful snack as a reward for working with a computer program that tallied up food points, which is the idea of food reinforcement. The sinful snacks fell into two categories: high-fat and sugar snacks such as candy bars, and high-fat snacks such as potato chips. When the researchers administered snacks in amounts from zero to 100 calories a day, they found no difference between the groups of normal weight and obese women. However, upon giving the women 300 calories a day of the chosen snack, the picture changed dramatically.
The non-obese and average-sized women grew tired of eating the same snacks after a few days, but the obese women continued to want more of the snack, even when they claimed they didn't like the snack. They noticed that in the obese women, there was an increased motivation to eat, and they actually worked harder for the food. This surprised researchers, as they had expected to see somewhat of a decrease in motivation.
A Rose Is a Rose
This leads to the comparison that food addiction may have traits similar to drug addiction. When women continued to eat the snacks, even after professing they didn't want to eat the snack, it shows that there is a sensitization to food that often happens in drug addiction, where response to a drug decreases with repeated use and usually leads to more drug use. Though all of the symptoms of overeating are not a match for drug use, researchers believe that they can try to use some of the strategies used to help with drug addiction to help with food addiction. One researcher points out that the women were not eating from hunger, so there must be another factor at work, such as something missing from their life. This is a factor found in drug addiction as well.