What is food addiction and how to deal with it

The addiction to food is real, has some symptoms and has serious consequences: overweight and obesity. Why is this food addiction and how to fight it?

We have to be aware that overweight and obesity harms the individual in their physical, emotional, economic and social health, with an estimated loss of 20% of years of life. The impact at the level of society is also extraordinarily negative and, what is more worrying, is that despite all the efforts made so far to reduce the number of affected individuals, the situation only gets worse. In fact, there are more and more obese people in both the adult and the child population.

According to data from the World Health Organization, obesity follows an upward trend, having tripled worldwide since 1975 until today. In 2016, more than 1,900 million adults – people 18 and older – were overweight, of which more than 650 million were obese. And in regard to children, the data is alarming, because on this same date more than 340 million children and adolescents with overweight and obesity were counted, which has meant going from 4% in 1975 to 18% in 2016. It could be said that there are more obese people than underweight.

The final cause in all these cases is no more than a positive energy balance maintained over time. Ingest more energy than what is spent, it leads the body to store this excess energy in the form of fat, caused by the high availability to consume tasty and hypercaloric foods, along with more sedentary lives which means a lower energy expenditure.

Why do we eat more energy than we spend?food addiction

But if we are aware of it, we could ask ourselves why we ingest more energy than what we spend. For the reason is nothing other than a biochemical and functional alteration at the level of various brain structures, which conditions a behavior that causes food addiction; being understood as a hedonic eating behavior, only oriented to produce pleasure with food and to appease the symptoms of its abstinence, and not oriented to nutrition or survival. Appetite is regulated by the brain, which identifies two areas that regulate the intake. One, the homeostatic system (in charge of assessing the energy costs to guarantee its replacement). And another area is the hedonic or pleasant system of intake (which assigns a reward value to each food).

In some individuals spontaneously, by hormonal alterations or by exposing themselves in excess to quantities of hyper-energetic foods, the functioning of the hedonic system that happens to dominate and inhibit the homeostatic system is altered , so that the individual has to eat much more energy of which he needs, losing the feeling of fullness and needing to eat excess food, due to the functional and biochemical alteration of the brain. For which it inhibits the center of satiety. And stimulates the center of hunger located at the level of the hypothalamus.

How to deal with food addiction?food addiction

Therefore, if food addiction is not considered and addressed correctly. It will mean the failure of attempts to lose weight, which leads the person to frustration. And finally to desist from any diet and exercise to lose weight. In this aspect it is worth noting the efficacy of Acupuncture that eliminates the sensation of hunger, by regulating the areas in charge of controlling appetite, deactivating the hedonism center and giving priority to the homeostatic center.

However, it is important to distinguish two different clinical situations but closely related. On the one hand, there are people with overweight/obesity, with body mass indexes above 25 and 30 respectively. And generally with food addiction. On the other hand, there are people with the same food addiction without weight alteration. Who are usually young people who maintain balanced energy balances due to the increase in spending? But over time the chances of gaining weight are guaranteed.

The behavior of food addictsfood addiction

  • Normally people addicted to food follow a pattern of behavior that can be summarized as:
  • They rarely reach the feeling of fullness during meals.
  • Need to finish main meals with sweet foods.
  • The sensation of constant hunger.
  • Need to snack between meals, especially hypercaloric foods.

” Anxiety attacks ” by hypercaloric food, usually the same type of food (bread, chocolate, cookies …), which leads them to have to look for that food imperatively. And until it is swallowed it is difficult to concentrate on other activities.

Difficulty falling asleep or waking up at night with hunger, only being able to fall asleep eating more amount of hypercaloric food.

  • Recurrent and constant thoughts about food and meals.
  • Avoid sometimes eating with friends/family because of the food.
  • Ease to gain weight and difficult to lose it.
  • Concern and anxiety due to this relationship with food.

After several studies, there is no longer any doubt that the problem of overweight/obesity should be seen from the perspective of food addiction. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out a nutritional intervention to reverse the energy balance. It is estimated that 30% of the effort during the intervention should be directed to dietetic education. And in a healthy way, they should follow a balanced, nutritious and hypocaloric diet long enough to lose excess weight. The problem is that if we only focus on the numerous diets. Without addressing the brain neurobiochemical problem of addiction, we are doomed to failure and frustration.

Acupuncture eliminates the feeling of hunger and cuts food addiction

Before the food addiction is where acupuncture intervenes since contemporary evidence indicates that it produces therapeutic effects that activate the central nervous system, with the consequent neurohormonal and neuroimmune regulation. This is why acupuncture treatment controls the appetite/hunger/anxiety to eat. Which allows the patient to follow a balanced, nutritious. And hypocaloric diet without going hungry, losing weight the time necessary to reach their ideal weight. And this is where the effectiveness of acupuncture lies, since if you follow a diet in which the person goes hungry. Most will not be able to maintain the diet for long enough and when they leave. They will recover the lost weight soon.

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Jeffrey Wilson

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