Food is a basic human necessity; it’s simply non-negotiable. But why is Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, now saying that food may be addictive?

Food addiction, says Volkow, is certainly a controversial concept. But while it’s not as generally acknowledged as, say, drug addiction, there are apparently enough similarities between the two for some experts to make a connection. For example, both drug addiction and obesity are dependent on the neurotransmitter dopamine. When these dopamine D2 receptors weaken, so does our ability to resist temptation.

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Drugs, unique in their ability to raise dopamine levels sky high, can create chemical imbalances in the brain. Can food actually do the same? According to some researchers, with our generation’s penchant for high levels of sugar and fat, it is entirely possible.

Volkow says that, while fewer than 20 percent of drug users become addicted to it, 34 percent of adults over 20 in the US are obese, which goes to show a lot of people have trouble controlling their food intake. This fact is unsurprising, especially now that obesity is being acknowledged as a growing concern worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 1.46 billion overweight people globally with 502 million of them being obese.

Despite these glaring similarities, however, nothing is conclusive. One thing’s for sure though: too much of anything really can’t be all that healthy. Whether food addiction really exists or not doesn’t matter as much as knowing when enough is enough.

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(Photo by Basileia Gorgo via Flickr Creative Commons)

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