A food addiction or eating addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized by the compulsive consumption of palatable (e.g., high fat and high sugar) foods – the types of food which markedly activate the reward system in humans and other animals – despite adverse consequences.[ Sugary and high fat food have both been shown to increase the expression of ΔFosB, an addiction biomarker, in the D1-type medium spiny neurons of the nucleus accumbens; however, there is very little research on the synaptic plasticity from compulsive food consumption, a phenomenon which is known to be caused by ΔFosB overexpression. Psychological dependence has also been observed with the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms when consumption of these foods stops by replacement with low fat or sugar food. Professionals address this disorder by means of behavior therapy.
Food addiction, refers to compulsive overeaters who engage in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating (binge eating). The term binge eating means eating an unhealthy amount of food while feeling that one’s sense of control has been lost. People who engage in binge eating may feel frenzied, and consume a considerable amount of calories before stopping. The after effects of bingeing in this way is generally followed by feelings of guilt and depression; for example, some will cancel their plans for the next day because they “feel fat.” Binge eating also has implications on physical health, due to excessive intake of fats and sugars, which can cause numerous health problems.
Unlike individuals with bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeaters do not attempt to compensate for their bingeing with purging behaviors, such as fasting, laxative use, or vomiting. When compulsive overeaters overeat through binge eating and experience feelings of guilt after their binges, they can be said to have binge eating disorder (BED). In addition to binge eating, compulsive overeaters may also engage in grazing behavior, during which they continuously eat throughout the day. These actions result in an excessive overall number of calories consumed, even if the quantities eaten at any one time may be small.
A food addiction features compulsive overeating, such as binge eating behavior, as its core and only defining feature. There are several potential signs that a person may be suffering from compulsive overeating. Common behaviors of compulsive overeaters include eating alone, consuming food quickly, and gaining weight rapidly. Other signs include significantly decreased mobility and the withdrawal from activities due to weight gain. Emotional indicators can include feelings of guilt, a sense of loss of control, depression and mood swings.