A fair number of obesity researchers reject the notion that people can become addicted to food, and indeed food addiction was not included as a diagnosis in the upcoming version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders. Dissenters argue that we are all “addicted” to food to the extent that we need to eat or we die—which is not true for substances like nicotine or illegal drugs. And they argue that even if we’re drawn to highly palatable fare like cheeseburgers, cupcakes and ice cream, and perhaps even prefer those foods over healthier choices, not eating them doesn’t produce the horrific withdrawal symptoms that coming off cocaine or heroin does.
David Katz, MD, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, contends that such distinctions, while valid, are ultimately moot. “For all intents and purposes, we crave foods rich in sugar, salt, fat and calories, and they are now in bountiful supply,” he says. “That combination of intense craving and bountiful supply produces considerable harm for people and society, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a true, formal addiction or not. The effects are much the same.”
Read: Are You a Food Addict?
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