Food Addiction and Obesity Go Hand in Hand

food addiction

When you think of the word addiction you think of alcohol and drugs, even sex. No one ever wants to acknowledge that the most dangerous drug anyone can ever be addicted to is food. It is the one drug that you can never completely give up because without it you can not survive. It is the reason why one of the top five topics of discussion in society today is the epidemic of obesity and how it has been on the rise in the U.S. for the past 20 years.

Society is quick to conclude that those who are obese don’t care enough about their condition to really try and do something about it. However, studies are now showing that a possible and feasible explanation for those that have become obese is because of an addiction to food.

What exactly is food addiction?

Simply put it is an unhealthy relationship with food. There is not just one cause and there is not any simple solution. Those with a food addiction have an unhealthy relationship with food and are eating for all of the wrong reasons. They eat for comfort or to numb their feelings of depression or loneliness. They sometimes eat because they don’t feel good about themselves or even out of guilt for overeating. At times they develop an obsession with food for the sheer ability to have control over something in their lives.

Food addiction results in obesity

While society would like to believe that food addiction is something made up simply to excuse the behavior of those obese, there are in fact studies that show that this addiction does in fact have merit. According to Dr. Valerie Taylor, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster as well as the director of the Bariatric Surgery Psychiatry Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, compulsive and out of control tendencies to eat play a fundamental role in causing obesity (Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)).

Of approximately two thirds of the adults in the United States that are overweight, more than 72 million of them are considered to be obese. According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 64.5% of adult Americans are categorized as being overweight or obese. It is a disease that causes at least 300,000 premature deaths in the U.S. every year.

Signs that you may be addicted to food

  • Obsessively thinking about food (preoccupation with it)
  • The continuous urge to eat
  • Eating when you are feeling depressed
  • Eating in secret
  • Eating when you are not hungry
  • Eating food regardless of the knowledge that it’s bad for you
  • Feeling guilty about eating
  • Unable to stop the destructive eating patterns

Things you can do to curb your urge for unhealthy eating

  • Don’t mask your emotion; deal with them head on
  • Instead of eating, go workout at the gym
  • Do work and keep busy
  • Watch television or a movie
  • Call a friend and talk about what you’re feeling

For people who are suffering from food addiction it is a constant struggle to battle the urge to eat when they know they are not hungry. The struggle comes in not allowing food to be used as their crutch. To simply acknowledge that they have a problem with food is not going to stop them from eating emotionally. A person with a food addiction has to reevaluate his relationship with food and reexamine the reasons why he is eating uncontrollably.

There is no 12-step program that people who have a food addiction can go to. There are no sponsors and no psychiatric drug to subside the urges to eat. The decision to change the way they relate to food is solely up to them. It is a battle that has yet to be won.

Chocolate addictions: Could your occasional chocolate addiction actually be good for you?


Dark chocolate, and in particular the cocoa in the chocolate, has exhibited significant health benefits in the last decade in numerous clinical studies. Cocoa is high in polyphenols, substances which help to lower inflammation in the body, boost the immune system, and scavenge free radicals. Just recently a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that cocoa also helps to lower blood pressure.

What are Polyphenols

Polyphenols are a type of bioflavonoid that we normally associate with fruits and vegetables, not chocolate. But what we often forget is that chocolate does come from a plant. But by the time it reaches our mouths it has been processed and things like milk, fat, and sugar have been added to make it more enjoyable to our palate.

Chocolate, or cocoa in its original form, contains more than 60% of procyanidins. This particular type of polyphenol is not present in as high amounts in teas, fruits or vegetables, and it appears this type is the most effective on blood pressure.

Measuring the Effect

To measure the effect of polyphenols on blood pressure researchers compared the regular use of black tea, green tea, and cocoa on blood pressure. They found that cocoa, consumed regularly for two weeks lowered blood pressure to the same degree of prescription medications. Black tea and green tea did not have such an effect.

The authors concluded that cocoa’s effect on blood pressure could have a dramatic impact on cardiovascular health and deaths due to stroke and heart attack. They estimated a potential decrease of 10-20 percent risk of stroke and heart attack.

But reader beware. Cocoa is the active agent here, not chocolate. Read the ingredient list on your favorite chocolate bar or treat and you will see that cocoa is farther down than you would expect. However, this can be remedied for chocolate lovers by seeking out the dark chocolate bars.

Some makers of chocolate bars will offer a 70-85 percent cocoa bar with minimal added sugar and fat. Using bulk chocolate may also be an option, again opting for the dark variety.

White Chocolate

And make sure to avoid white chocolate. Because even though the flavor is excellent, white chocolate has had virtually all the polyphenols removed. Because of its relatively low polyphenol content, it does not offer any of the health benefits mentioned above.

Please remember the health benefits of dark chocolate are found in moderation. Excess consumption of dark chocolate on a daily basis may lead to weight gain and an increase in body fat. But when eaten in moderation, the health benefits are very apparent.