Role of addiction cannot be ignored in obesity epidemic

December 22, 2009

The causes of obesity are complex and individual, but it is clear that chronic overeating plays a fundamental role. But when this behaviour becomes compulsive and out of control, it is often classified as "food addiction" - a label that has generated considerable controversy, according to a McMaster University psychiatrist and obesity researcher.

In a commentary appearing in the Dec. 21, 2009, issue of the (CMAJ), Dr. Valerie Taylor, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster and director of the Bariatric Surgery Psychiatry Program at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, and her co-authors argue that food addiction in some individuals may be a reality and needs to be considered in the management of weight problems.

"The concept of addiction is complex, and the delineation of its defining characteristics has fostered considerable debate," Taylor and her co-authors write. "Despite a lack of consensus, researchers nevertheless agree that the process involves a compulsive pattern of use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences."

Food addiction can be compared to other addictive behaviours, as both food and drugs can cause tolerance, or an increase in the amount required to achieve intoxication or satiety. such as mood changes can occur after discontinuing drugs or during dieting. As well, after gastric surgery for obesity, a subset of patients exhibit other addictive behaviours.

"The concept of addiction does not negate the role of free will and personal choice," Taylor and co-authors write. "It may, however, provide insight into why a some individuals with obesity continue to struggle."

The authors conclude that therapies traditionally applied to the area of addiction may be helpful in managing weight problems, which are often viewed through the same lens.

"The current 'blame' mentality that is often applied to individuals with needs to be re-examined," the authors write. "Although medicine may not yet accept compulsive overeating as an , we cannot ignore evidence highlighting the role played by biologic vulnerability and environmental triggers."

Explore further: Experts debate Internet addiction

Related Stories

Experts debate Internet addiction

November 14, 2006

Experts have questioned whether Internet addiction constitutes a psychological disorder and an Arlington, Va., group may add it to its diagnostic manual.

Internet addiction more serious than OCD

August 20, 2007

Internet addiction should be grouped with extreme addictive disorders such as gambling, sex addiction and kleptomania, an Israeli psychiatrist said.

Assembling the jigsaw puzzle of drug addiction

January 5, 2008

Using an integrative meta-analysis approach, researchers from the Center for Bioinformatics at Peking University in Beijing have assembled the most comprehensive gene atlas underlying drug addiction and identified five molecular ...

A new addiction: Internet junkies

September 8, 2008

While compulsive gambling is only beginning to be addressed by mental health professionals, they must now face a new affliction: Internet addiction.

Addiction: Insights from Parkinson's disease

February 25, 2009

A new comprehensive review by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), McGill University and the University of Cambridge, England provides vital insights into the neurological basis of addiction by investigating ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.