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Scientists Daniel Blumenthal and Mark Gold found many similarities between consuming certain foods and ‘substance addiction’. Anything that gives you pleasure and provides a reward to your brain has the potential to become addictive. Hyper-palatable sugary, fatty or salty foods are at the top of the list. Some things can be more addictive than others, making them harder for you to resist. Think about it, no matter how hard some people try repeatedly, they cannot control themselves around them.

How are food addiction and eating addiction related?

Scientists now distinguish between two types of addiction that can lead to overeating: ‘food addiction’ and ‘eating addiction’. One doesn’t necessarily exclude the other. Both of these addictions have negative consequences that challenge scads of people. Given the rising levels of obesity, both types contribute to the debate over what propels people to overeat. In terms of symptoms and where in the brain addiction occurs, having a ‘food addiction’ has been connected in the same way we would speak about drug addiction.

And much of the blame is being placed on the food industry for the production of highly addictive, inexpensive foods to boost sales. But ‘eating addiction’ has its own set of particulars. It brings the attention back to the individual, not the external substance (the food or ingredient). This is where we will shift the focus of this piece – how ‘eating addiction’ differs from ‘food addiction’ in terms of what happens in eating and the ‘reward’ associated with it.

What are the characteristics of an eating addiction?

Published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, the same 12 scientists tell us that the focus on confronting the obesity problem should be away from the food (the addictive substance) towards the person’s act of eating (the addictive behaviour). Eating addiction is a behavioural issue and has now been categorised alongside conditions like gambling addiction, mainly when the psychological compulsion to eat is driven by the positive feelings that the brain associates with the very act of eating.

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