Food addiction

In her publication ''Food Addiction'. What happens in childhood?', Appetite, 2015, University of Newcastle researcher Dr Tracy Burrows argues that it is imperative that food addiction be explored in children given their psychological and neurobiological vulnerabilities.

The last decade has seen a significant change in the food environment, with an exponential growth in the number and variety of food service outlets, particularly of hyperpalatable convenience and junk food.  Advertising and marketing has also increased, with such campaigns often heavily targeted to vulnerable groups such as children.  Alongside an increasing prevalence of obesity and the changing food environment, the concept of food addiction has become popular, both among researchers and the lay public, as a possible means to understand the impact of psychological factors on weight gain.  

Food addiction refers to eating behaviour involving the overconsumption of specific foods in an addiction-like manner.  As a concept, food addiction is a highly novel and highly debated topic. Research on this topic is still considered somewhat 'young' when compared to other fields of research.  Emerging research demonstrates that consumption of some foods is associated with physical and psychological changes that mirror symptoms of addiction caused by addictive drugs such as withdrawal, tolerance and craving.  Food addiction is best documented in young adults with few studies carried out in younger populations. 

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Dr Tracy Burrows