The science of food addiction: is it for real?

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Sweet tooth? Midnight muncher? Constant cravings? You could be addicted to food. The study of food addiction is still in its infancy, with researchers still debating if food addiction is a substance addiction like it is with drugs, or is it behavioural issue such as gambling

University of Newcastle (UON) and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) researcher Dr Tracy Burrows is leading a team of researchers who aim to find out the reasons behind food addiction with a new study.

“Increasing evidence shows that there seems to be addictive behaviour when it comes to eating, which would explain our continuing problems fighting obesity in Australia” Dr Burrows said.

“We’re hoping to uncover whether overeating is caused by an actual addiction to the taste, sensation or experience of food – or if it’s a chemical reaction.”

Food addiction refers to eating behaviour involving the over-consumption of specific foods, while the concept is still in a novel phase, research could help identify the reasons behind food addiction and help devise treatment options.

Emerging research indicates that consumption of foods high in sugar and fat can elicit reactions in the brain that are similar to those that occur in drug addiction.

This is significant as this may indicate addiction to high calorie ‘junk foods’ could play a role in the development of obesity.

A team of researchers at the University of Newcastle, University of New South Wales and The Florey Institute are calling for men and women to get involved in determining levels of food addiction in the Australian population.

The researchers are investigating the relationships between food addiction, dietary intake and mental health outcomes.

If the research demonstrates that food addiction is real, obesity treatments can then be reworked to deal with this specific issue.

The researchers are asking males and females aged 18 years and over to complete a 15 minute online survey about food addiction.

If you are interested in participating or finding out more information please go to:

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.