Having just attended a food addiction symposium, the evidence says YES, food addiction is alive and kicking. In fact it is believed amongst experts that over 50% of obese people have a food addiction and that sugar is at least as addictive as coccaine! Food addicts spoke out at the symposium, reporting lives dominated by an insatiable drive to eat and stating how relieved they were to realise they are not alone in their plight and that their overeating is not gluttony (as many believe) but a valid addiction. There are still many non-believers however – their view is that since we have to eat to live, food cannot be considered an addictive substance. But they only need to look at the way our food supply has changed over the past 50 years – real foods like fruit, vegetables etc increasingly sidelined by products that simulate food; products that are manufactured and would never exist naturally. “Foods” with hyperpalatable combinations of sugar, fat and salt are carefully engineered to hijack the brain in a way that overrides willpower, judgement and personal responsibility and it is these “foods” that are the key culprits when it comes to addiction.
Dr Doug Sellman, an expert in addiction says that “behind every addiction is an engineered moreish product” Think alcohol, tobacco and soft drinks and you can see what he means. And what is behind engineered moreish products….big companies driven by profit!
Regular dieting, or indeed any programme promoting “moderation” (how I hate that word when applied to eating), will never be a solution for food addicts. Like alcohol and tobacco, total abstinence may be the only way for food addicts. Because we have to eat to live however, we cannot totally abstain from food. We can however abstain from foods that are not needed nutritionally and which promote weight gain and ill health. To this end Dr Jane Elmslie, a Dietitian and researcher for Otago University has recently developed a list of 50 foods that people who are addicted to food would benefit from eliminating altogether. The list, called the NEEDN”T list is interesting and contains some surprises – honey and fruit juice to name but two. Stripped from their healthy veneer however, honey and fruit juice are just concentrated sugar, and the body does not recognise them as any different from other high sugar foods.
For more information on this list go to