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The Addiction Potential of Hyperpalatable Foods

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Scientific interest in "food addiction" continues to grow due both to neurobiological and behavioral similarities between substance dependence and excessive food consumption. An important next step is to examine the addictive potential of highly processed foods. In this paper, we explore addiction-related changes in the modern food environment (e.g., increased potency, elevated speed of absorption), examine the historical and modern understanding of addictive substances as applied to hyperpalatable foods, and outline shared factors that increase the public health costs of both addictive drugs and certain foods.
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140 Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2011, 4, 140-145
1874-4737/11 $58.00+.00 © 2011 Bentham Science Publishers
The Addiction Potential of Hyperpalatable Foods
Ashley N. Gearhardt*,1, Caroline Davis2, Rachel Kuschner1 and Kelly D. Brownell1
1Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
2York University, Toronto, Canada
Abstract: Scientific interest in “food addiction” continues to grow due both to neurobiological and behavioral similarities
between substance dependence and excessive food consumption. An important next step is to examine the addictive
potential of highly processed foods. In this paper, we explore addiction-related changes in the modern food environment
(e.g., increased potency, elevated speed of absorption), examine the historical and modern understanding of addictive
substances as applied to hyperpalatable foods, and outline shared factors th at increase th e public health costs of both
addictive drugs and certain foods.
Keywords: Food addiction, food environment, high fructose corn syrup, obesity, substance dependence, withdrawal.
INTRODUCTION
Although the concept of food and addiction is receiving
widespread attention from the popular media, and is woven
into popular language and culture as seen with terms such as
“chocoholic” and “carbohydrate craving”, it has become
credible in the scientific community only recently [1-4].
Since 2006 there has been an exponential increase in the
number of academic publications relating to this topic (Fig.
1), due in part to a shift in persp ective to the view that
addictions should be reframed as unusually strong and
maladaptive desires to ingest a substance or engage in a
behavior despite negative consequences [5, 6].
Fig. (1). Number of publications containing the words “food
addiction” obtained from the Web of Science database, and plotted
for the years 2000-2010.
The term ‘food addiction’ might be seen as an oxymoron
since eating is quintessentially necessary for our health and
survival. We argue the opposite - that many of the highly-
processed foods in modern diets that damage health are more
similar to drugs of abuse than to the natural energy resources
people consumed historically (Table 1). Humans evolved to
prefer foods high in fat, sugar, and salt, but in the quantities
*Address correspondence to this author at the Yale University Department
of Psychology, 2 Hillhouse Ave., New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA;
Tel: 415-265-9484; Fax: 203-432-7172; E-mail: Ashley.gearhardt@yale.edu
and availability these ingred ients now occur in processed and
refined foods, they appear to have an abuse potential similar
to addictive drugs like cocaine and alcohol [7-9].
A growing body of research has identified many
similarities between conventional addiction disorders and
excessive consumption of calorie-dense foods. Presently
many of the studies on the additive potential of certain foods
are based on examinations of rats exposed to sugar, fat, or
highly processed foods [3, 10]. The eating behavior of rats
may provide an especially useful analogue for human food
consumption, as both rats and humans are omnivores who
have developed the ability to ingest a diverse array of foods
[11]. For both rats and humans the dopamine and opioid
neural circuitry implicated in drug addiction is also
associated with the motivation for food and food-related
reward [12, 13]. It has also been demonstrated that rats given
sugar, fat, or highly processed foods exhibit reward-related
neural changes seen in drug addiction, as well as the
behavioral signs of withdrawal, tolerance, and continued use
despite negative consequences [3, 10]. Scientific evidence of
the parallels between substance use and food consumption in
humans is also building. For example, drug and food
cravings foster similar patterns of neural activation in the
brain’s mesocorticolimbic pathways [14]. Further, genetic
(i.e., DRD2 Taq1A allele) and personality factors (i.e.,
elevated reward responsivity) linked with addiction have
also been implicated in obesity and binge eating disorder
[15]. Moreover, individuals who endorse symptoms of food
addiction as indicated by the Yale Food Addiction Scale are
more likely to exhibit patterns of craving-related neural
activation in response to food cues and disinhibition-related
neural activation during palatable food consumption [16].
Examining how hyperpalatable substances have addictive
properties is an important next step in evaluating the validity
of the food and addiction construct. This may be especially
true for understanding the utilityof an addiction perspective
in preventing and treating diet-related disease and obesity. In
this paper, we will explore addiction-related changes in the
modern food environment, examine the historical and
modern understanding of addictive substances, and outline
shared factors that increase the public health costs of both
addictive drugs and certain foods.
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The Addiction Potential of Hyperpalatable Foods Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2011, Vol. 4, No. 3 141
Table 1. Similarities Between Hyperpalatable Foods and
Addictive Drugs
1. Activate dopamine and opioid neural circuitry
2. Trigger artificially elevated levels of reward
3. Absorbed rapidly into the blood stream
4. Alter neurobiological systems
5. Cause compensatory mechanisms that result in tolerance
6. Combined with additives to enhance rewarding properties
7. Elicit cue-triggered cravings
8. Consumed in spite of negative consequences
9. Consumed in spite of a desire to cut down
10. Impact disadvantaged groups to a disproportionate degree
11. Cause high public health costs
12. Exposure in utero can result in long-term alterations
DEFINING FOOD
Prior to examining the addictive potential of food, it is
useful to consider what constitutes a food. A wide-variety of
substances is consumed for sustenance, as well as pleasure,
and definitions of what is considered a food varies based on
cultural definitions. For example, insects are a staple of diets
in some regions (e.g., China) [17], but they are not
commonly eaten in the Western world. Further, the
increasing prevalence of chemicals, flavor enhancers and
lab-developed compounds in the food supply has led to the
question of whether ultraprocessed foods should no longer
be called food and should instead be relabeled as food-like
products [18]. To add another layer of complexity, alcohol
(which is typically considered an addictive substance) is a
natural product of ripe fruits, may be a standard part of a
hunter-gather diet, and provides calories and some nutrients
in a similar manner as substances classified as food [19].
Although no one definition is able to succinctly capture the
complexity of this topic, in the current review we use the
term food to reference caloric items that are consumed as
part of the Western diet (i.e., might be purchased at a grocery
store) with special attention given to macronutrients that are
frequently manipulated during food processing, like fat and
sugar. Although alcohol may fall under this definition, in the
current paper we include ethanol-containing products in the
category of substances traditionally considered addictive.
ADDICTIVE-LIKE FOODS
The food environment has changed drastically, which has
resulted in foods with increasingly addictive-like properties.
In the pre-industrial era humans survived on a diet that was
minimally processed, high in protein, grains, and produce,
and relatively low in salt [20]. Foods that had greater caloric
value through elevated sugar and fat content, such as berries
and animal protein, were relatively scarce. As an adaptation
to motivate consumption of calorically dense foods, we
evolved to find foods high in sugar and fat more hedonically
rewarding than foods low in these substrates [20]. As
industrialization occurred and food-related technology
evolved, the environment changed from one with limited
access to calorie-dense foods to one of abundance with
artificially elevated levels of fat, sugar, salt, caffeine and
flavor enh ancers in the meals we eat [21].
Many highly processed foods have been altered in a
similar manner as addictive drugs. Both the elevated potency
of a substance, and its rapid absorption into the bloodstream,
increase a substance’s addictive potential [22]. Many drugs
of abuse derive from plant materials that are refined into
highly concentrated substances (e.g., grapes into wine; the
coca leaf into cocaine). As a result of processing, these
substances became more potent and the active ingredients is
more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. For example,
when the coca leaf is chewed or stewed as tea, it produces
only mild stimulation and is thought to have little addictive
potential [23]. Further refinement provides a more potent
drug in the form of cocaine and crack, which is hedonically
very rewarding, quickly absorbed, and highly addictive [24].
Many highly palatable foods follow a similar process that
results in the quicker absorption of sugar and a higher level
of reward. For example, corn is a frequently consumed
starchy vegetable that has been part of the human diet for
centuries. With technological advances, corn was refined
into high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – a highly
concentrated and very sweet simple carbohydrate, which is
not found in natural foods that comprise most traditional
diets [25].
In the past 40 years or so, HFCS has been added to a
large variety of processed products, such as soft drinks,
baked goods, and cereals. Indeed, our consumption of this
simple sugar has increased exponentially – from about 4 to
12% of our daily caloric intake in a few generations [26]. In
this capacity, the special physiological properties of fructose
render it similar to other drugs of abuse. The most direct
parallels are seen between fructose and alcohol because the
two are biochemically and evolutionarily congruent. Ethanol
is simply the fermented byproduct of fructose [27] and can
have some health benefits when consumed in small doses.
For example, not only is ethanol an energy resource due to
its caloric content, but it may also serve as a stimulant to
further feeding. Given that ethanol is associated with the
valuable nutrients found in ripe fruit, Dudley [19] suggested
that a short-term advantage of ethanol might be to increase
the rate of food intake, which, in turn, would increase blood-
ethanol content and foster further consumption. Similarly,
HFCS provides the body with calories needed to maintain
functioning. Thus, consuming either HFCS or ethanol in
small doses may provide some benefits.
However, as both HFCS and ethanol are legal, relatively
cheap, widely available, and socially sanctioned in most
Western cultures, they are frequently consumed to excess.
When taken in large quantities, HFCS and alcohol may cause
biological changes that encourage further problematic use.
Excessive alcohol consumption causes mesolimbic
dopamine down-regulation, which fosters increased intake,
pronounced cravings, continued use despite negative
consequences and physical withdrawal symptoms during
periods of abstinence [28]. High fructose consumption tends
to promote insulin resistance and chronic hyperinsulinemia,
and this occurs largely through its capacity to induce
increased release of triglycerides in th e liver [29]. We have
142 Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2011, Vol. 4, No. 3 Gearhardt et al.
also learned that the metabolic impact differs substantially
depending on the type of sugar that is consumed. For
instance, the monosaccharide fructose raises triglyceride
levels and lowers high-density lipoprotein, whereas glucose
does not have these effects [30]. Fructose also blunts leptin
signaling thereby promoting sensations of hunger and
activation of the reward pathways creating a desire for
consumption independent of energy needs [31] – a
phenomenon that is directly comparable to what occurs when
alcohol is used excessively [27]. This seems to occur
because HFCS bypasses the insulin-driven satiety system. In
other words, while glucose stimulates the release of insulin,
decreasing the desire to eat, fructose has this effect to a very
weak degree [31]. Therefore, ingesting elevated amounts of
either ethanol or fructose can result in biological changes
that promote overconsumption.
Another consequence of processing for both food and
drugs of abuse is that the refined substance is combined with
additional products to enhance its rewarding properties. The
tobacco plant, for example, is harvested and processed into a
form that can be either inhaled as smoke, or ingested as a
result of chewing. Although the nicotine in the tobacco plant
is the main active ingredient, the tobacco industry has added
hundreds of additional ingredients to enhance the flavor and
aroma of the product, speed absorption into the lungs, and
increase cigarette shelf life [32]. The resulting tobacco
product is significantly more rewarding and addictive than
unprocessed tobacco.
A similar process occurs with hyperpalatable foods.
HFCS is not consumed on its own, but is combined with
other ingredients, such as sweeteners, fat, salt, flavor
enhancers, and caffeine. For ex ample, a frosted chocolate-
fudge Pop Tart combines HFCS with refined flour, sugar,
oil, salt, cocoa, flavor enhancers, and preservatives. In total,
the resulting product has approximately 37 ingredients.
Thus, similar to cigarettes, the substance that results from
processing is often significantly more rewarding than
minimally processed foods.
In addition to the increased levels of hedonic reward, the
processing of foods may also result in other addiction-related
changes, such as tolerance and cue-reactivity. For example,
individuals have a tendency to consume greater quantities of
foods they find palatable, as evident in the ever increasing
portion sizes of highly processed foods [33]. The
consumption of food, especially in large quantities, increases
the level of glucose into the bloodstream, which disrupts the
homeostasis of the biological system [34]. As a
compensatory mechanism, the pancreas begins to secrete
cephalic insulin in response to food-related cues or at the
beginning of food consumption to allow the body to tolerate
greater levels of food ingestion [34]. Similarly, ingestion of
drugs of abuse also stresses the body and biological
responses occur to compensate for these disruptions, which
increases the body’s tolerance to the addictive substance
[35]. Thus, the body adapts to the ingestion of either food or
drugs of abuse in a manner which results in higher levels of
tolerance. The development of elevated tolerance may then
drive even more problematic levels of consumption.
Addition ally, consump tion of sugar or addictive drugs can
result in elevated dopaminergic activation in response to
related cues, which is associated with an enhanced
motivation to seek out the substance (i.e., wanting) without a
corresponding increase in the hedonic pleasure received
during consumption of the substance (i.e. liking) [36, 37].
The sensitization of dopaminergic activity to cues may result
in cue-triggered cravings playing a large role in both
problematic eating and drug-taking behavior. In summary,
the elevated hedonic nature of highly processed foods may
initially encourage overconsumption, but other factors (e.g.,
increased tolerance, elevated wanting) may also drive
addictive-like eating behavior.
THE CONTROVERSIAL NATURE OF ADDICTION
Like the food environment, the conceptualization of an
addictive substance has changed throughout history. In the
19th century, substances that are now classified as addictive
were commonly consumed as a part of daily life. For
example, heroin was an ingredient in over-the-counter tonics
for both children and adults, cocaine was included in Coca-
Cola, and alcohol was consumed as an alternative to
contaminated water [38]. In the late 1800s and early 1900s,
public concern about these substances grew, and some, like
heroin and opium were thought to be a threat to societal and
personal wellbeing [39]. As the impact of these substances
on the body and brain became more evident in the latter part
of the 20th century, the list of problematic drugs increased.
Nevertheless, the classification of what constitutes an
addictive substance has often been controversial. Frequently,
the substance at the center of debate has been associated with
some central features of addiction (e.g., escalating use,
inability to stop despite problems), but lacks other typical
addiction markers. For example, cocaine is associated with
almost no physical withdrawal symptoms, which created
controversy about its addiction potential until the late 1980s
[40]. The addictive nature of tobacco was also the focus of
debate, in part due to its lack of a strong intoxication
syndrome [41].
Hyperpalatable foods are also associated with some of
the factors that once caused cocaine and tobacco’s addictive
nature to be debated. Although there is evidence that sugar
consumption is associated with pronounced physical
withdrawal symptoms in animals [3], evidence of withdrawal
from hyperpalatable foods in humans is largely anecdotal
and based on reports of people experiencing headaches,
elevated cravings, irritability, and temperature dysregulation
while dieting [42]. Like cocaine, the limited exploration of
food-related withdrawal in humans has increased skepticism
about the addictive nature of highly processed foods [43].
Moreover, in a similar manner as tobacco, consumption of
highly processed foods does not result in an obvious
intoxication syndrome. However, the level of intoxication
triggered by an addictive substance does not directly
correlate with the degree of negative consequences. Tobacco
is currently the number one cause of preventable death in the
United States despite the lack of an intoxication syndrome
[44]. The greater public health cost associated with tobacco
is partly because of the ease of accessibility, increased social
acceptability, heavy marketing practices, and low cost [21].
Hyperpalatable foods are also ubiquitous, socially
acceptable, highly marketed, and inexpensive [21] and their
public health consequences are enormous. Furthermore,
despite the lack of an intoxication syndrome, ingredients in
The Addiction Potential of Hyperpalatable Foods Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2011, Vol. 4, No. 3 143
highly processed foods appear to have reinforcing properties
on par - or possibly exceeding - drugs of abuse. For example,
Lenoir and colleagues [45] found that cocaine-addicted rats
will choose saccharin, a calorie-free sweetener, over cocaine
in a forced choice task, which led to the conclusion that the
rewarding properties of sweetness may surpass that of drug
reward.
Although hyperpalatable foods may differ in some ways
from the typical conceptualization of addictive drugs, they
share many features with traditionally addictive substances.
First, highly processed foods and drugs of abuse are both
capable of triggering cravings [14, 46]. Second, consumption
of highly processed foods and drugs of abuse can both be
associated with compulsive overuse in the face of severe
negative consequences [42]. And finally, in some individuals
there is evidence of chronic relapse and an inability to cut
down consumption of both substances [42]. Thus, while
highly processed foods may not be associated with a clear
intoxication syndrome, and evidence of withdrawal is just
now building, there are significant areas of overlap with
conventional addiction disorders.
In addition to nosological debates, the application of an
addictive label has also been mark ed by societal controversies.
For individuals, stigma is often associated with a substance
dependence diagnosis. The stereotype of persons with addiction
as weak-willed and untrustworthy can be a barrier for those
thinking of seeking treatment and may result in occupational
and social discrimination [47]. In contrast, the conceptualization
of addiction as a disease has also led to more widespread
support for those seeking treatment for substance use disorders,
increased insurance coverage for addiction, and greater funding
for addiction-related research [47]. Similarly, applying an
addiction perspective to food may increase weight stigma or
conversely may lead to greater support for the treatment of
eating-related problems. Addictive substances have also been
linked to questions of social justice. Certain addictive
substan ces (e.g., crack-cocaine)have been linked to
underprivileged groups (e.g., urban poor, African-Americans),
which have resulted in stricter legal consequences for the use of
these drugs relative to other substances [48]. Further, at-risk
groups have often been disproportionally targeted for the
marketing of legal drugs. For example, primarily African-
American neighborhoods in metropolitan areas have a higher
density of tobacco billboards and magazines designed for
African-American readers are more likely to contain cigarette
advertisements [49]. Currently, food-related problems, such as
obesity, are impacting minorities and economically
disadvantaged groups in disproportionately high numbers [50].
As with tobacco, advertisements for potentially addictive foods
are specifically designed to appeal to these demographics and
fast-food restaurants are more prevalent in poorer
neighborhoods [51, 52]. The historical relationship of addiction
with social issues may prove informative in considering the
burden of potentially addictive foods on disadvantaged groups.
SHARED FACTORS THAT INCREASE THE COST
OF ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCES
Although addictive substances appear to be somewhat
heterogeneous in nature (i.e., varying levels of withdrawal,
intoxication, etc.), the addiction rubric has been useful in
identifying substances that are likely to be consumed
excessively despite negative consequences and to result in
clinical levels of impairment/distress. Ultraprocessed foods
appear to share many of the characteristics of addictive
substances and excessive consumption of these foods is
already associated with some clinical disorders (e.g., binge
eating disorder). The consequences of potentially addictive
foods, like drugs of abuse, will also likely extend beyond
clinically significant disorders. Widespread use of addictive
substances often results in steep public health costs due in
part to sub-clinical problematic use. For example, alcohol
consumption is prevalent in America, but only 5-10% of
alcohol users develop alcohol dependence during their
lifetime [53]. Despite the relatively low rates of dependence,
alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the
United States, partially as a result of accidents and health
conditions caused by sub-clinical alcohol use [44]. Highly
processed foods may have a similar impact on public health
by triggering problematic use in individuals that do not
exhibit clinically disordered eating. Moreover, ingredients in
highly processed foods are implicated in health problems
beyond elevated body mass index. For example, research
suggests that HFCS relative to sucroseis more likely to cause
adipose fat in the abdominal region, increase circulating
triglyceride levels, and result in metabolic syndrome [31,
54]. If hyperpalatable foods are capable of driving
widespread overeating and metabolic dysfunction to a degree
that impacts health, this may partially account for the high
public health cost of excessive food consumption [44].
Protective factors against the development of addictive
behaviors are also on the decline in the current food
environment. Addictive substances consumed in the context
of cultural and religious rituals appear to be less likely to be
abused (e.g., [55]). If it is only socially appropriate to
consume a substance in a specific context, social mores may
restrain substance use and only a limited number of cues
may be linked with the substance, which could result in
fewer triggers for use. In a similar vein, food consumption
has traditionally been linked with the experience of eating in
a social or cultural context. For examples, meals were
frequently eaten with family or friends while seated at a table
and snacking between meal times was not a common
practice. The current trends in food consumption find people
eating more frequently in isolation, in a variety of setting
(e.g., the car, at a work desk, in front of th e television), and
snacking regularly between meals [56]. The uncoupling of
food consumption for social/cultural settings may also
increase the likelihood that highly processed food
consumption will result in an addictive behavior.
Additionally, the frequency and the duration of one’s
exposure to an addictive substance, as well as early age of
substance use [57], increases the likelihood of becoming
addicted [58]. There is some evidence that the same dosing
effects may also apply to food high in sugar, fat and salt.
While drug experiences typically begin during adolescence
or early adulthood, direct exposure to processed and highly
palatable food normally begins within the first few years of
life. Indeed, recent research indicates that these influences
can occur in utero and can substantially modify the fetal
genome [59]. For instance, maternal consumption of a high-
fat diet during pregnancy can induce long-term alterations in
dopamine and opioid gene expression and preference for
palatable foods in animal offspring [60]. In addition, there is
144 Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2011, Vol. 4, No. 3 Gearhardt et al.
evidence that children of obese mothers are at increased risk
for insulin resistance and subsequent obesity and metabolic
dysfunction [61]. Therefore, the early age of exposure to
processed foods and the chronic nature of its consumption
may increase the consequences of potentially addictive
foods.
CONCLUSION
In summary, although highly processed foods differ from
the traditional conceptualization of addictive drugs in some
ways, such as the lack of intoxication, the degree of overlap
is significant and compelling. In addition to neurobiological
and behavioral similarities, hyperpalatable foods and
addictive substances both trigger artificially high levels of
reward, cause biological compensations that result in
tolerance, and become linked with associated cues. Factors
that increase the addictive potential of substances, such as a
lack of cultural context, frequent consumption and early age
of use, are also relevant to highly processed foods. Further,
the components that increase the public health consequences
of alcohol and nicotine are also present in the modern food
environment, such as the ease of accessibility, increased
social acceptability, heavy marketing and lower cost of high-
calorie foods. Due to the similarities between highly
processed foods and addictive drugs, successful policies in
reducing the impact of addictive drugs may also be useful in
combating food-related problems. For example, tobacco
consumption was significantly reduced in the United States
when effective individual treatments were comb ined with
tobacco-focused interventions, such as barring cigarette
machines, increasing taxes and limiting marketing. Similar
interventions have been proposed in response to the obesity
epidemic, such as reducing nutrient-poor foods in school
vending machines, implementing a soda tax and reducing
marketing of high-calorie foods to children [62,63]. Given
the similarities between highly processed foods and tobacco,
these approaches may also prove effective in reducing the
public health consequences of excess food consumption.
Future Research Questions:
It is highly unlikely that all foods are equally capable of triggering
an addictive process. What foods have the greatest addictive
potential? What increases foods’ addictive nature (e.g., elevated
sugar, increased fat)?
Does a reduction in the consumption of highly processed foods
trigger a withdrawal syndrome? Do symptoms of withdrawal from
hyperpalatable foods (e.g., anxiety, agitation, physical symptoms)
increase the risk of weight gain or being unable to adhere to a
healthier diet?
Can the implementation of protective factors against the
development of addictive behaviors (e.g., inclusion of consumption
in social/cultural settings, reduced exposure to advertisements) also
reduce problematic food consumption?
Key Learning Objective:
The food environment has changed drastically in a relatively short
period of time. One cause for concern is that foods are now being
processed in ways that increase both their reward potency, as well as
the speed of absorption of fat/sugar into the system. These are two
factors that increase the addictive potential of other substances (e.g.,
coca leaves). This may have increased the likelihood that certain
foods may be capable of triggering an addictive process.
Labeling a substance addictive has been historically controversial.
For example, the minimal physical withdrawal symptoms associated
with cocaine and the lack of an intoxication syndrome linked with
tobacco led to debates about their addictive nature. Hyperpalatable
foods are associated with similar factors, which will likely lead its
addictive nature to be a topic of controversy.
Despite these differences, hyperpalatable foods and addictive drugs
share a number of characteristics. They are both associated with
loss-of-control, continued use despite negative consequences, high
rates of relapse, public health costs and in utero influences. If
evidence of the addictive potential of highly processed foods
continues to build, effective policies for reducing the impact of other
addictive substances (e.g., increased taxation, restricted advertising)
may prove essential in dealing with the obesity epidemic.
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Received: January 26, 2011 Revised: March 22, 2011 Accepted: April 19, 2011
... However, the concept of food addiction has been reinforced by both animal studies (50,51) and human studies (52,53) which have shown the addictive-like responses and the withdrawal symptoms derived from food. This is why Gearhardt et al. (9) developed the first version of YFAS, and adopted the seven criteria of substance use listed in DSM-IV. ...
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Introduction: The most widely used instruments to assess food addiction – the Yale Food Addiction Scale 2.0 (YFAS 2.0) and its modified version (mYFAS 2.0) – have not been validated in a Taiwanese population. The present study compared the psychometric properties between the Taiwan versions of YFAS 2.0 and mYFAS 2.0 among university students. Methods: An online survey comprising the YFAS 2.0, mYFAS 2.0, Weight Self-Stigma Questionnaire (WSSQ) and International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form (IPAQ-SF) were used to assess food addiction, self-stigma, and physical activity. Results: All participants (n = 687; mean age = 24.00 years [SD ± 4.48 years]; 407 females [59.2%]) completed the entire survey at baseline and then completed the YFAS 2.0 and mYFAS 2.0 again three months later. The results of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) indicated that the YFAS 2.0 and mYFAS 2.0 both shared a similar single-factor solution. In addition, both the YFAS 2.0 and mYFAS 2.0 reported good internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = 0.90 and 0.89), good test-retest reliability (ICC = 0.71 and 0.69), and good concurrent validity with the total scores being strongly associated with the WSSQ (r = 0.54 and 0.57; p < 0.01), and less strongly associated with BMI (r = 0.17 and 0.13; p < 0.01) and IPAQ-SF (r = 0.23 and 0.25; p < 0.01). Discussion: Based on the findings, the Taiwan versions of the YFAS 2.0 and mYFAS 2.0 appear to be valid and reliable instruments assessing food addiction.
... In situations of energy deficiency, both systems work together to induce food intake and cover energy needs; however, they might collide in food-rich environments [16]. Processing increases rewarding properties and hedonic value of products compared to unprocessed food items [17,18]. The availability of these palatable, energy-dense foods in the modern environment promotes hedonic pathways [14,19,20]. ...
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Background Added flavors are a marker for ultra-processing of food and a strong link exists between the intake of ultra-processed food and the development of obesity. The objective of the present article is to assess animal and human data elucidating the impact of added flavors on the regulation of food intake and body weight gain, as well as to define areas for future research. Main text Mechanistic studies suggest that added flavors induce overeating and body weight gain by two independent mechanisms: Added flavors promote hedonic eating and override homeostatic control of food intake, as well as disrupt flavor-nutrient learning and impair the ability to predict nutrients in food items. Supporting these potential mechanisms, added flavors increase feed intake and body weight as compared to non-flavored control diets in a broad range of animal studies. They are actively promoted by feed additive manufacturers as useful tools to improve palatability, feed intake, and performance parameters. In humans, added flavors are extensively tested concerning toxicity; however, no data exist concerning their impact on food intake and body weight. Conclusions Added flavors are potential contributors to the obesity epidemic and further studies focusing on their role in humans are urgently required. These studies include obesity interventions specifically targeting food items with added flavors and cohort studies on independent associations between added flavor intake and metabolic, as well as cardiovascular, morbidity, and mortality.
... Due to the neurobiological and behavioral commonalities between substance dependence and excessive eating behavior, scientific interest in food addiction is increasing (Carter et al., 2016;Gearhardt, Davis, et al., 2011). Addictive behavior is the behavior of an organism in relation to the development of addiction that results in strengthening and rewarding of future behavior (Uzbay et al., 2019) and loss of control over food intake accompanied by brain changes (Guleken & Uzbay, 2022). ...
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While some people around the world have serious difficulties in food supply, others consume more food than they need. So much so that this consumption can sometimes appear as a psychological and psychiatric problem. The aim of this study is to examine food addiction, which is a new concept, within the scope of psychopathology based on the relevant literature, and to discuss the possible effects of the subject on public health. Addictive behavior is the behavior of an organism in relation to the development of addiction that results in strengthening and rewarding of future behavior and loss of control over food intake accompanied by brain changes. Food addiction defined as an another eating behavior profile that shows a substance-based addiction to maximal ultra-processed foods. Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5) includes diseases such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, pica, binge eating disorder, not include food addiction. The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS), which was prepared on the basis of the DSM-5 and is widely used, is used in the diagnosis of food addiction. In this context, criteria such as continued use despite negative consequences, repeated unsuccessful reduction attempts are taken into consideration, just as in substance-use disorders. In past studies, it was found that the group consuming maximal processed foods exhibited more problematic eating behavior than the group consuming minimally processed food. Recent food habits can cause serious physical and psychological problems. Food addiction, which stands out as a new concept among these problems, is also important. Contribution to the literature can be made by conducting more studies on food addiction by considering psycho-social factors within the scope of psychopathology. It is very important for public health to follow up the food habits and eating problems, if any, at an early age, without delay.
... Despite a lack of conceptual clarity on food addiction (FA) and an explicit and agreed definition of this concept [1], FA is generally referred to as excessive consumption of highly processed foods (hyper-palatable food) that contain high combinations of sugar, salt, and fat [2][3][4]. Evidence suggests that highly palatable foods affect the brain and activate the same brain regions and the same neural circuits, just as with drugs of abuse [5,6]. Excessive food consumption might activate neural adaptation in reward circuitry, similar to drug dependency [7]. ...
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The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) is the most commonly used scale for measuring food addiction (FA). The previous approach to the YFAS and its subsequent versions assumed di-chotomization of items, separating addiction symptoms and clinical significance items, and factorial validity testing on a subset of items. In this paper, we discuss the drawbacks associated with these procedures. In addition, we present a different analytical approach to investigate the validity of the modified YFAS (mYFAS) along with an alternative scoring method that overcomes limitations related to the previous approach. After establishing the structure of the mYFAS, we investigated the potential antecedents and consequences of FA separately for men and women. The sample consisted of 1182 Polish undergraduate students (613 women, 559 men, 10 missing values on gender) with a mean age of 20.33 years (SD = 1.68; range: 18-36). They were asked to complete self-report questionnaires measuring FA, personality traits (Big Five), self-esteem, narcissism, self-efficacy, social anxiety , loneliness, and well-being indicators. Due to the low content, factorial, and clinical validity, the first three items were excluded from the Polish version of the mYFAS. The six-item mYFAS demonstrated measurement invariance, allowing for meaningful comparisons between genders and yielded almost identical prevalence rates for men and women. The hierarchical multiple analysis showed that age, extraversion, narcissism, and social anxiety predicted FA in both genders, whereas important gender differences in antecedents were also noted. In addition, FA was associated with body mass index (BMI) and most of the well-being indicators, even after controlling for relevant variables. The findings suggest that our modified analytical approach allows researchers to measure FA using a valid, useful, and simple tool.
... A la fecha, el concepto de adicción a la comida como determinante de la obesidad continúa siendo un aspecto controvertido 36 . En efecto, si bien se discute si ciertos alimentos tendrían potencial adictivo, sobre todo los de alta palatabilidad, y se reconoce que ciertas conductas como el ansia o urgencia por comer que puede presentarse en el trastorno por atracón podría estar relacionado con una conducta adictiva 37,38,39 , se ha planteado que la sobreingesta hedónica puede interpretarse como la manifestación de una conducta alimentaria normal, sobrestimulada por el actual ambiente obesogénico 36 . No obstante, se sugiere que la sobreingesta sostenida, podría alterar los sistemas de recompensa regulado por mecanismos cerebrales relacionados con el placer 40,41 . ...
... Food addiction refers to the excessive and uncontrolled consumption of food (usually processed, such as saturated sugars with high calorie content) with addiction-like characteristics (Gearhardt et al., 2011). Preliminary research has shown that food addiction is associated with measures of online dependence, such smartphone addiction (Domoff et al., 2020), social media addiction (Panno et al., 2020), and internet addiction (Martins & Pimenta, 2019;Yildirim et al., 2018). ...
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Several variables were associated with online dependence, but it is unclear to what extent they are independently associated. We examined the following statistical predictors of online dependence: food addiction, poor sleep quality, absence of physical activity, negative family interactions, positive family interactions, and age, in a sample of Portuguese adolescents and young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sample consisted of 311 participants (190 females and 121 males), aged 14-21 years, who completed an online questionnaire as part of the project "Geração Cordão”. The instruments included the Internet Addiction Test, the Yale Food Addiction Scale, the Athens Insomnia Scale, the Family Assessment Device - General Function, and a measure of frequency of physical exercise. In simple correlations, greater online dependence, greater food addiction, worse sleep quality and negative family interactions were intercorrelated. In a multiple regression, online dependence was independently and significantly associated with food addiction, poorer sleep quality, younger age, more negative family interactions, and more positive family interactions. Males and females did not differ in online dependence. Lack of physical activity was unrelated to online dependence. These findings obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic are consistent with those obtained in normal circumstances. Caution is required in interpreting the regression model as it was obtained under abnormal social circumstances. In future studies, it will be interesting to clarify the causal direction of these variables, or if unmeasured variables mediate the associations (e.g., deficits in self-regulation might underlie online dependence and food addiction).
... With the dramatic change in the food environment and food practices, the fact that food is processed in ways which increase its potential reward can contribute to the severity of obesity (Pedram et al., 2013), a topic in the sphere of food addiction that has been widely researched in recent years. Especially since 2006, the number of academic publications regarding this topic has been growing rapidly (Gearhardt et al., 2011). Food addiction is widely researched in the Western world, and yet extensive research on adolescent obesity in the Czech environment is lacking. ...
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INTRODUCTION: The Czech Republic records one of the highest prevalence levels of obesity in comparison to other European and world countries. The present study aims to fill a gap in the use of tools in research of food addiction (FA), which is believed to be one factor in the high prevalence of obesity. METHODS: A pen-and-paper study was conducted using a nationally representative non-clinical sample of 3950 adolescents aged 11–19. RESULTS: The FA prevalence rate was 4.1%. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses verified a one-factor structure. The reliability corresponded to KR = 0.80, CI95% = (0.79, 0.81), McDonald’s ω = 0.79 (0.86 for continuous scale). The connection between FA and impulsivity was confirmed using Poisson regression and logistic regression, and the prevalence of FA decreases with lower impulsivity. CONCLUSIONS: The study findings suggest that the Czech version of mYFAS 2.0 is a reliable tool for research purposes with regard to the Czech environment. Further research should incorporate additional personality traits to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the emerging topic of food addiction.
... Sweet preference or attraction is present even in the early stages of human life [44][45][46]. Moreover, high-calorie foods (usually highly processed and rich in fat) have been reported to trigger brain areas connected to the reward system [47], which are also linked to addictive behaviors [48]. Further, preferences for high-density caloric foods are aligned with the increased craving and consumption of sweet and savory snacks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic [7], as well as the higher volume of calorie consumption that can also be related to the maladaptive coping strategies during the pandemic [49,50]. ...
Article
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The COVID-19 pandemic led to several lifestyle changes, including eating behavior. Herein, we aimed to evaluate how pandemic-related sanitary cues presented in food videos impact food appraisal and desire to eat, and their priming after-effects on subsequent food pictures presented without such cues. In two online sessions, separated by 4 to 7 days, participants watched either a Non-Pandemic or a Pandemic video of a woman eating, the latter containing sanitary elements adopted during the pandemic. The order of the videos was counterbalanced across participants over the two experimental sessions. Videos were followed by images of food from different categories. After observing both videos and each picture, participants were instructed to evaluate the visual aspect, expected smell and flavor, and rate their desire to eat. Our study demonstrated (1) higher hedonic responses to the Non-Pandemic compared to the Pandemic video, (2) a priming effect showing higher appreciation for sweet foods after the Non-Pandemic compared to the Pandemic video, (3) that food exposure gradually increases one's desire to eat, but such effects are im-pacted by pandemic sanitary cues, and (4) greater hedonic responses are given for sweet and high-calorie foods compared to salty and low-calorie ones, irrespective of pandemic priming. Finally, depression and anxiety symptoms were associated with lower smell evaluations only in the Pandemic condition.
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Food addiction (FA) appears among bariatric weight loss surgery candidates who struggle to control the intake of hyperpalatable/refined foods have high rates of psychopathology and related health problems. Despite this, prevalence rates of FA in the bariatric sector are reported as low or variable. We investigated the prevalence of FA and the applicability of conventionally used metrics for 166 pre-surgery candidates from a weight management centre (USA) and a major metropolitan hospital (Australia). Self-report measures assessed FA (Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS)), body mass index (BMI), disordered eating, addictive personality, psychopathology, and diet. Consistent with prior research, standard YFAS scoring, requiring the endorsement of a distress/impairment (D/I) criterion (FA + D/I), yielded a FA prevalence rate of 12.7%, compared to 37.3% when D/I was omitted (FA − D/I). We compared profiles for those with FA using each scoring method against those ‘without’, who did not meet a minimum of three YFAS symptoms (non-FA ≤ 2). Both methods differentiated those with and without FA on addictive traits, disordered eating and hyperpalatable food consumption. Only FA + D/I differentiated markers of psychological distress or impairment, including depression, anxiety and quality of life. Results indicate a need for further FA research in bariatric settings.
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Exploring potentially addictive foods and food components is a recent research focus. Few studies have evaluated this based on level of food processing using the NOVA classification system. This study compared intakes of ultra-processed foods in young adults with and without food addiction. Secondary analysis of online cross-sectional survey data was conducted. The sample included 735 young Australian adults (18–35 years). Dietary intake was assessed by food frequency questionnaire and coded using NOVA to determine percentage energy (%E) from each of the four NOVA categories (unprocessed; processed culinary ingredients; processed; ultra-processed). Food addiction was assessed using the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS). Linear regression models, adjusted for age, gender and body mass index (BMI), were developed to examine the association between %E from NOVA categories with food addiction status and number of symptoms. Sample mean age was 24.7 ± 4.2 years, 85% were female, 67% within healthy weight BMI range, and 20% classified as food addicted. Participants consumed 34.3 ± 13.4 %E from ultra-processed foods. Young adults classified as food addicted consumed a higher %E from ultra-processed foods (β = 3.954, p = 0.002) and a lower %E from unprocessed foods (β = −2.743, p = 0.010) than those classified as not food addicted. For each additional food addiction symptom reported the %E from ultra-processed foods was higher (β = 1.693, p < 0.001) and %E from unprocessed foods was lower (β = −1.238, p < 0.001). Results demonstrate an association between YFAS assessed food addiction and higher intakes of ultra-processed foods, providing an important new perspective on the relationship between self-reported diet and food addiction in young adults. Future research should evaluate the relationship between food addiction, ultra-processed food intakes and health in longitudinal studies in order to inform potential treatment approaches.
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Context While general consensus holds that food portion sizes are increasing, no empirical data have documented actual increases.Objective To determine trends in food portion sizes consumed in the United States, by eating location and food source.Design, Setting, and Participants Nationally representative data from the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (1977-1978) and the Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (1989-1991,1994-1996, and 1998). The sample consists of 63380 individuals aged 2 years and older.Main Outcome Measure For each survey year, average portion size consumed from specific food items (salty snacks, desserts, soft drinks, fruit drinks, french fries, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizza, and Mexican food) by eating location (home, restaurant, or fast food).Results Portion sizes vary by food source, with the largest portions consumed at fast food establishments and the smallest at other restaurants. Between 1977 and 1996, food portion sizes increased both inside and outside the home for all categories except pizza. The energy intake and portion size of salty snacks increased by 93 kcal (from 1.0 to 1.6 oz [28.4 to 45.4 g]), soft drinks by 49 kcal (13.1 to 19.9 fl oz [387.4 to 588.4 mL]), hamburgers by 97 kcal (5.7 to 7.0 oz [161.6 to 198.4 g]), french fries by 68 kcal (3.1 to 3.6 oz [87.9 to 102.1 gl), and Mexican food by 133 kcal (6.3 to 8.0 oz [178.6 to 226.8 g]).Conclusion Portion sizes and energy intake for specific food types have increased markedly with greatest increases for food consumed at fast food establishments and in the home.
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The question of addiction concerns the process by which drug-taking behavior, in certain individuals, evolves into compulsive patterns of drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior that take place at the expense of most other activities, and the inability to cease drug-taking, that is, the problem of relapse. In this paper we summarize one view of this process, the “incentive-sensitization” view, which we e rst proposed in 1993. Four major tenets of the incentive-sensitization view are discussed. These are: (1) potentially addictive drugs share the ability to alter brain organization; (2) the brain systems that are altered include those normally involved in the process of incentive motivation and reward; (3) the critical neuroadaptations for addiction render these brain reward systems hypersensitive (“sensitized”) to drugs and drug-associated stimuli; and (4) the brain systems that are sensitized do not mediate the pleasurable or euphoric effects of drugs (drug “liking”), but instead they mediate a subcomponent of reward we have termed incentive salience (drug “wanting”).
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During the past few years there has been a new upsurge of interest in insects as food. One factor that may be responsible is an increasing awareness in the western world that insects are traditional and nutritionally important foods for many non-European cultures. Other factors may be increased pride in ethnic roots and traditions, increased concern about environment and overuse of pesticides, and better communication among scientists who are interested in the subject. Edible insects may be closer now than ever before to acceptance in the western world as a resource that should be considered in trying to meet the world's present and future food needs.
Article
Compares the various modes of cocaine use and their relative dependence producing potential and toxicity. The effects of the dose and route of administration are investigated in relation to bioavailability, tolerance development, and serious toxicity. The impact of crack and the practice of cocaine smoking on compulsive cocaine addiction is examined. Topics of discussion include coca leaf chewing; oral, intranasal, and iv administration; smoking coca paste; cocaine freebase smoking; cocaine doses and toxic reactions; and cocaine smoking disorder. The physical and psychological symptoms and symptom list of 32 freebase users are presented. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Summary  The notion that sweetness is ‘addictive’ endures in the scientific literature and in the popular press. The most common targets of food cravings and addictions are energy-dense foods that are sweet, high in fat, or both. In clinical studies, the consumption of sweet and high-fat foods has been selectively reduced by opiate antagonists, suggesting a link between hedonic pleasure response and the brain systems of reward. Recent brain imaging studies have further implicated the dopamine system in mediating the pleasure response to food as well as a range of addictive behaviours. However, suggestions that sugar and fat have a permanent impact on the neurobiology of food preference are in sharp contrast with the view that the vast majority of food addictions are simply a matter of misattribution. Dietary restraint, coupled with ambiguous attitudes towards good-tasting but energy-dense foods, may lead consumers to claim that some aspects of eating behaviour are beyond their control. This distinction between addiction and attribution has implications for obesity-related lawsuits. The chief attraction of addiction theory for the plaintiff’s counsel lies in the claim of diminished personal responsibility and abrogation of free choice. However, sugar and sweets do not appear to meet the current criteria for substance dependence as formulated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition. Examining scientific literature on sweet food ‘addictions’ and their putative links to the obesity epidemic is the topic of this review.
Chapter
The liver is a major regulator of lipid metabolism in the body. It plays a central role in the synthesis and degradation (oxidation) of fatty acids. Fatty acids serve as an important source of energy as well as energy storage for many organisms and are also pivotal for a variety of biological processes, including the synthesis of cellular membrane lipids and generation of lipid-containing messengers involved in signal transduction [1]. Fatty acids can generally be stored efficiently as non-toxic triglycerides (triacylglycerols/fat), which generate more than twice as much energy, for the same mass, as do carbohydrates or proteins. Accordingly, liver is a key player in energy homeostasis: first, as it converts excess dietary glucose into fatty acids that are then exported to other tissues for storage as triglycerides as lipid droplets [2]; second, under conditions of increase in synthesis and decreased oxidation of fatty acids the liver contributes to the progressive accumulation of excess unspent energy in the form of energy-dense triglycerides in adipocytes of adipose tissue, which provide virtually limitless capacity to store energy and finally, under chronic energy over-load situations the liver may serve as a surrogate reservoir for storing considerable quantities of excess fat, leading to the development of hepatic steatosis and steatohepatitis [3].