Is food addiction a medical condition?





The BBC reported that we need to be careful when labelling over-eating with food addiction.


The Institute of Psychological Science in Leeds has pointed out that comparing food addiction to drug addiction can be dangerous as it implies that there is a pathological condition that needs medical care. It also implies that normal social behaviour does not apply – however over-eating is linked to behaviour. Taking behaviour out of the equation would mean limiting the individual’s responsibility and delegating the decision-making to a healthcare professional.


Food addiction is a complex condition that requires a multi-disciplinary recovery approach. Food addiction is also linked to the chemistry in the brain where, for example, sugar creates an addiction where the reward mechanisms in the brain are over-active.


Linking food addiction with over-eating and highlighting it as the main cause of obesity is dangerous because it creates a sense of helplessness and removes the element of responsibility. For example, binge eating occurs in only 3% of obesity cases. There is plenty of scope for using the individual’s ability to control their own eating by supporting them in making healthier food choices.


Binge eating assumes loss of control and the compulsion to eat even after feeling full. In the BBC report it is stated that binge eating is not a cause of obesity.


We are running a series of workshops including a discussion on how to stop binge eating.