Food Addiction vs. Eating Addiction


“‘Eating addiction’, rather than ‘food addiction’, better captures addictive-like eating behavior” is the title a sensible but slightly troublesome report on a study compiled by experts from Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. For starters, it states that “Evidence for addiction to specific macronutrients is lacking in humans.”

This is eminently debatable. The science may be inconclusive, but the anecdotal evidence from people addicted to such particular items as, for instance, cheese would reach to the moon and back. More significantly, the potential of sugar as an addictor seems almost beyond the possibility of denial.

Another highlight is:

“Eating addiction” describes a behavioral addiction… Obesity prevention strategies should focus on “eating addiction”.

The authors of this study state with confidence that addictive eating as a behavioral phenomenon has been satisfactorily confirmed in both animals and humans — among “predisposed individuals under specific environmental circumstances.” They note that to regard overeating as a behavioral addiction has “potentially important implications for treatment and prevention strategies.”

Exactly, which is why this important point has been discussed by Dr. Pretlow in “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People” and other presentations and publications.

The authors of the study make this recommendation because they would like to see more definitive diagnostic criteria for eating addiction, a desire shared by many others in the field:

Consider “eating addiction” as a disorder in DSM-5 “Non-Substance-Related Disorders”.

In addition to these main ideas, the report goes into a great deal of detail about the effects of exogenous and endogenous chemicals; the neurobiology of reward pathways; the importance of distinguishing between the occasional overeating episode, binge eating, and true eating addiction; and many other relevant topics. Here is the part that doesn’t sound so good:

“Food addiction” places blame on the food industry for the production of “addictive foods” and by so doing indicates that obesity prevention strategies should seek to curtail the influence of this industry on eating behavior.

On the contrary, the evidence that the industry does indeed deliberately set out to create hyperpalatable, addictive products is too extensive to ignore. A statement like the one quoted here can set off all kinds of alarm bells, and weigh very heavily against even an instructive mass of meticulous citations about the nature of addiction in all its plenteous variety.

One thing remains certain. No matter what school of weight loss wisdom a person subscribes to, she or he will have to shed old eating habits and cultivate new ones. Eating is a behavior, and behavioral addictions are amenable to behavioral therapy. The person needs to stop doing certain things and start doing other things, which leads us back to W8Loss2Go.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘Eating addiction’, rather than ‘food addiction’, better captures addictive-like eating behavior,”, Nov. 2014
Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys via Visualhunt/CC BY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources