Health Team

Study: 1 in 20 people addicted to food

Posted January 3, 2014

— Hillary Buckholtz says she has never had a normal relationship with food, even as a child. After hitting about 300 pounds on the scale, she says, she decided to stop weighing herself “because it was too depressing.”

Buckholtz is not alone. A recent study in Canada found that as many as 1 in 20 people could be addicted to food.

"Sugary, fatty, salty food combinations that actually hack into the reward center in your brain – they cause changes that literally leave you addicted to that food,” said Dr. Pamela Peeke, a senior science adviser for Elements Behavioral Health in Long Beach, Calif.

Peeke says treating patients with food addiction is a little trickier than treating patients with substance problems, because they can't simply stop eating.

“You can most certainly eliminate and avoid the foods that ignite your rewards center,” Peeke said.

Peeke discovered that refined sugars were triggering Buckholtz’s overeating, so she cut them out and lost weight. She says it's still an addiction.

“I do see it as a chronic condition, something I have to manage for the rest of my life,” Buckholtz said, adding that she’s in recovery and getting support from other over-eaters in a program for food addicts.

While research has shown a strong connection between food addiction and obesity, one study found as many as 11 percent of normal-weight participants could also be diagnosed as food addicts.


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  • turkeydance Jan 7, 2014

    addicted to water, too.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Jan 7, 2014

    I'd say it is actually higher than 1 in 20, especially if you eat a lot of processed foods.

  • WakeForestLiving Jan 7, 2014

    What a crock piece of junk science. Of course humans are addicted to food they need it to survive. This is another attempt to open up a clinic or rehab center just to make our insurance rates soar even more. Its called being responsible people! Put down the twinkie and 2-liter and use some common sense.

    Next thing we know defendants will be using the food addiction defense to get off on crimes.


  • kindaas Jan 7, 2014

    I'm pretty sure we are all addicted to food. Someone prove me wrong, live without it.

  • ncouterbanks69 Jan 7, 2014

    This is yet another example of this countries refusal to take responsibility for their own actions. It's not my fault I am 300lbs I am simply addicted to food? Please. That is nothing short of an excuse to make someone overweight feel better and try and take the responsibility out of their hand where it truly belongs. It is not you "addiction to food" it is your 4000 calories/day and the fact the people McDonalds know you by first name. Excuses do nothing to better yourself.....admit your mistake and correct them. Of course it is easier to just claim addiction and be done with it.

  • uncgirl_2010 Jan 6, 2014

    It's very easy to laugh this article off if you've never had to deal with weight, much less addiction. Trollordv00 there's more to this than diet and exercise, and it has nothing to do with being active or being lazy. Trying counting every single calorie that goes into your mouth and every single calorie you burn during daily exercise and STILL battling your weight. it's not a joking matter, and certainly not a matter of intelligence. Don't assume that individuals who do not struggle with their weight are above "average" vs those that do by calling them "average". Educate yourself a little more, and find some compassion. Overweight people are not by definition lazy or stupid.

  • readme Jan 6, 2014

    In a related story, 20 out of 20 participants were found to be addicted to Oxygen.

  • PDMARTIN Jan 6, 2014

    I thought the headline was a bit silly myself. I would think everyone is addicted to food, you need it to stay alive don't you.

  • trolllordv00 Jan 6, 2014

    Pretty simple here people. The more you eat the more you need to exercise to rectify all that eating. If you are to lazy to exercise then stop putting so much junk in your mouth. I swear, the average person needs to be told how to do EVERYTHING these days, sad.

  • SlyBlackheart Jan 6, 2014

    I tried to quit once, but it nearly killed me. Now I'm back to my addiction of 3 squares a day. Great headline WRAL.