Study: 1 in 20 people addicted to food
Posted January 3, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.