People can become addicted to foods and exhibit behaviours similar to those of drug addicts or alcoholics, a new study has revealed.
Researchers, led by Dr Caroline Davis from Toronto's York University, have uncovered evidence that supports the case for food addiction in humans.
Using a questionnaire originally developed by Yale University to access drug addiction, a group of obese men and women were asked questions modified by replacing the word 'drugs' with 'food'.
The respondents were then categorised by being 'food' addicts or non-addicts, and then the two groups were compared in three areas relevant to conventional addiction disorders - clinical co-morbidities, psychological risk factors, and abnormal motivation for the addictive substance.
While 'food addicts' did not differ from non-addicts in their age or body weight (controlled for height), they displayed an increased prevalence of binge-eating disorder and depression, and more symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
They also were characterized by more impulsive personality traits, were more sensitive or responsive to the pleasurable properties of palatable foods, and were more likely to 'self-soothe' with food.
"These results strongly reinforce the view that food addiction is an identifiable condition with clinical symptoms, and is characterized by a psycho-behavioral profile that is similar to conventional drug-abuse disorders," said Davis.
"The results also deliver much needed human support for the growing evidence of sugar and fat addiction in experimental animal research," she added.
The findings will be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB).