My apologies guys, its been a while since I have posted anything due to university work. This post is written by a friend of mine Sirine. Sirine has a bachelors degree in biomedical science, and is currently doing her masters degree in nutrition, as well as working as a personal trainer. You can find more of Sirine's work on her website www.thegymcess.com or follow her on instagram @the_gymcess.
Cocaine and heroine are known to be dangerous and addictive substances. But who knew that food could possibly be just as dangerous and addictive?
According to recent research food addiction can be a real issue. So when your client mentions not being able to resist that ice cream or cake consider that you might be speaking to someone with a clinical problem.
I am a person who believes that everything is in our control and that the mind is extremely powerful, but I also believe that addiction is real and thought this emerging theory is worth having a look into.
So what is food addiction?
It’s a chronic, out-of-control or compulsive overconsumption of certain types of pleasure-giving foods despite the negative social and health consequences.
According to Kay Sheppard, M.A., a mental health counsellor “This is a disease that is primary, chronic, progressive and potentially fatal”.
Not all foods are as addictive. Scientific literature notes that people tend to get addicted to palatable constituents of food such as fats, sugars and possibly salt that are found in processed foods.
Interestingly, nature doesn’t have wholefoods that are high both in fats and sugar, which means that this combination of high sugar and fat is modern and manmade.
Individuals with symptoms of food addiction or higher BMIs are those with problems with highly processed foods and that is thought to be to the possible rewarding properties of these foods.
A study conducted at Yale identified the 25 foods of varying nutritional value that were the most associated with addictive-like eating behaviours. And here’s the list from the most to the least problematic:
2. Ice cream
3. French fries
11. Breakfast cereal
12. Gummy candy
13. Fried chicken
14. Soda (not diet)
15. Rolls (plain)
19. Crackers (plain)
22. Granola bar
24. Chicken breast
27. Corn (no butter or salt)
30. Carrots (plain)
31. Brown rice (plain, no sauce)
33. Cucumber (no dip)
35. Beans (no sauce)
What’s the evidence?
The medical community recognises certain behaviours to be associated with substance abuse. According to the American Society of Addictive Medicine (ASAM) these include increased cravings for substances and the inability to abstain from use.
For those who haven’t read my article about sugar, then this is news to you but sugary foods stimulate the same “tolerance” and “withdrawal” behaviours associated with drug addiction.
Taylor et al., (2010) showed that gastric bypass patients who lose weight “transfer” the addictive behaviour to other compulsions such as gambling or spending. This supports the idea that some people are more “hard-wired” to become addicted.
Back to sugar again. The consumption of sugar stimulates the release of opioids and dopamine in the brain, just like drug abuse. But it’s not just sugar; food in general showed in imaging studies the activation of the same mesolimbic pathways (neural areas associated with reward and motivation).
So does that mean that the same medication used to treat withdrawal from drugs can be used for withdrawal from food? According to the same study by Taylor et al., (2010) yes! Naltrexone is used to combat withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, heroin, morphine and other drugs and has been shown to reduce cravings for food!
Hold on a minute before you go running to your GP asking for drugs though. There is still no hard evidence for this, it is just a hypothesis. This chemical response is seen with music, sex, and humour (I don’t see how these can harm you though!)
However, most scientific research is in favour of this hypothesis.
So if you are a personal trainer who thinks your client has food addiction, read more about the subject and ask them to write a food diary so you can monitor their behaviour before taking the next step. And if you think that you could have food addiction talk to someone they can really help with providing tools and support.
There are still important questions that need to be answered, but for now paying attention to our dietary habits can only be of benefit!
The Gymcess x
Taylor, V.H. et al. 2010. The obesity epidemic: The role of addiction. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 182(4), pp. 327-328.