Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Food & Addiction

Recent evidence has been building that suggests a link between excess food consumption and addictive behaviors. Behavioral markers of addiction, such as continued use despite negative consequences and unsuccessful attempts to cut down, are evident in problematic eating patterns. Additionally, neurobiological research has identified similarities in the way the brain responds to drugs and highly palatable foods. Finally, animal models have identified marked similarities between sugar consumption and drug addiction. These findings have led to the hypothesis that certain foods may be capable of triggering an addictive process in susceptible individuals. An important first step in exploring this hypothesis further is the ability to reliably and validly identify people who may be exhibiting signs of addiction towards certain foods. The Rudd Center was involved in creating and publishing the Yale Food Addiction Scale (Gearhardt, Corbin, & Brownell, 2009). The scale is currently being used in projects around the country and the world.

If certain foods are addictive, practices such as advertising unhealthy foods to children and the quality of the school lunch programs may come under even greater scrutiny. Further, "food addiction" may speak to the difficulty that some people experience when they try to reduce their consumption of unhealthy foods. Before action can be taken, it will be necessary to continue to scientifically explore the concept of "food addiction."