Is Obesity an Addiction?

Posted: Mar 01 in Health Issues by

Authors of a recent commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that food addiction may be a real struggle for some individuals and should be considered when talking about weight loss methods.

Dr. Valerie Taylor, a psychiatrist at McMaster University and co-author of the commentary, admits that “the concept of addiction is complex, and the delineation of its defining characteristics has fostered considerable debate.”

Taylor points out that overeating and the resulting weight gain involves a “compulsive pattern of use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences.” In this way, food addiction can be compared to other addictive behaviors. Also, food, like drugs or alcohol, can cause a type of tolerance where an increased amount becomes necessary to achieve satisfaction. In addition, people who try to stop overeating or switch to low-sugar or low-fat diets can find themselves suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

Taylor and co-authors go on to say that “the concept of addiction does not negate the role of free will and personal choice. It may, however, provide insight into why a some individuals with obesity continue to struggle.”

Taylor and her associates suggest that therapies which have been traditionally applied to the area of substance addiction may be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight.

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