One Food Addiction Factor

The goal here is to tease out a few of the complications and nuances involved in defining what people call food addiction (FA). In some cases, they themselves may not even have a very clear picture of what they mean by that phrase. Or they might believe two opposite things at the same time, a phenomenon called cognitive dissonance that appears to be increasing daily.

It seems important to mention these details, especially in an area where the empowered deciders might pass legislation about difficulties that legislation can’t fix, wasting a lot of everybody’s time and money, while worsening the health situation of the entire populace.

In this particular discussion, we have given the example of two possible models — looking at FA as substance addiction, or as a behavioral addiction. But the possibilities do not end at two. What happens when calculations include the society in which these factors are embedded, and which supports them? What if, for instance, the only food available contains addictive substances that were put there on purpose? Along with the double whammy of both the willingness and the ability to also induce behavioral addiction?

The deliberation factor

Not surprisingly, the ingredients of many processed foods inevitably supply a major addiction incentive. Dr. Pretlow has referenced Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., who in 2010 broadcast some disturbing assertions. In the background was all the very convincing work that had been done before that, to prove that “demon drugs” are all-powerful. This belief was supported by masses of lab work with rodents, the gist of which was described by journalist Sarah Klein:

When the researchers applied an electric shock to the rats’ feet in the presence of the food, the rats in the first two groups were frightened away from eating. But the obese rats were not…

In previous studies, rats have exhibited similar brain changes when given unlimited access to cocaine or heroin. And rats have similarly ignored punishment to continue consuming cocaine…

Then, Klein talks to and about Dr. Wang:

Coca leaves have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains… This made the drug more addictive.

According to Wang, food has evolved in a similar way. “We purify our food,” he says. “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”

The ingredients in purified modern food cause people to “eat unconsciously and unnecessarily,” and will also prompt an animal to “eat like a drug abuser,” says Wang…

“We make our food very similar to cocaine now.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction,'”, 03/30/10
Image by woodleywonderworks/CC BY 2.0

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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