Inherency and Food Addiction — Oh No! More Wrinkles

Where is the handle to grab this problem known as Food Addiction (as distinct from Eating Addiction), which may or may not have consistent rules? Is it the particular kind of food, or something found in many foods? Is it not even caused by food at all? Where and what is the addictor? Or is the problem inside the person? Why do corporations take such outlandish measures in their effort to make food as addictive as the major drugs?

Obviously, the profit motive is involved in a big way. If a company can amass fortunes by selling its customers something that will diminish their quality of life and possibly even kill them, why should the manufacturers care, any more than the leaders of a drug cartel care if their heroin kills people? It’s just business.

Sound familiar?

But extra-paranoid people suspect that something else comes into play. They relate it to, for instance, Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel, Xenocide.

The colonizers of a planet had introduced a genetic mutation that would cause some of their brilliant population to suffer from OCD, so distracting that it would prevent the individuals from being able to concentrate on seizing power, if the thought ever happened to enter their heads. Which it wouldn’t, because they were so wrapped up in counting and other obsessive-compulsive rituals.

Is there some powerful force or entity that wants Earth’s population anesthetized, immobilized, demotivated and hypnotized, collapsed in a limpid pile in front of an electronic entertainment device, too heavy to move very far and too preoccupied to know or care what goes on in society? If there were such a force or entity, it could thrive by employing this method.

To sum up so far: First, a very weak case for addictive substances in natural foods. Second, an increased possibility for an addiction-like reaction when processed food comes into the picture, which it mostly has for most people on the planet’s surface. There is another whole side to this matter. To what extent is the propensity to become food-addicted (or eating-addicted) inherent in the person?

More questions

There is a problematic difference between addiction to a substance, and addiction to eating; along with and despite the suggested possibility that some foods actually do contain chemically addictive substances. But then why doesn’t everyone who eats those foods become addicted? Dr. Pretlow says,

Only a subset of individuals who are exposed to substances with addictive potential develop addictive behaviors, just as not all people who are exposed to foods and diet patterns that pose difficulties with weight control become obese.

And yet, so many people find it impossible to shed their addictions, whether categorized as substance, behavioral, or other. Dr. Pretlow has written that addiction and obesity “both reflect the consequences of ingestive behavior gone awry,” and notes the core similarities between these conditions:

First, in terms of clinical diagnostic features, both addiction and obesity result from repetitive foraging and ingestion behaviors that intensify and persist despite negative and (at times) devastating health and other life consequences.

Likewise, despite often repeated attempts to reduce or quit using addictive substances, relapse is common in the addiction recovery process, just as those with obesity who attempt to regulate their food intake through dieting frequently relapse and return to their elevated body weight.

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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.

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