Food addiction seems to be linked to the types of foods we’re consuming. Dr. Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, notes that the human body is biologically adapted to deal with foods found in nature, not processed foods.
“We don’t abuse lettuce, turnips and oranges,” says Dr. Brownell, co-editor of the new book “Food and Addiction.” “But when a highly processed food is eaten, the body may go haywire. Nobody abuses corn as far as I know, but when you process it into Cheetos, what happens?”
Dr. David A. Kessler, the former F.D.A. commissioner, described these products as “hyperpalatable” foods created to tantalize our taste buds by focusing on the right combination of salty, sweet and fatty ingredients along with “mouth-feel.”
Dr. Brownell says that the brain science should lead us to question how food companies are manipulating their products to get us hooked. “With these foods, personal will and good judgment get overridden. People want these foods, dream about these foods, crave them.”
Dr. Pamela Peeke, assistant professor at the University of Maryland and author of “The Hunger Fix,” says that meditation and exercise can help engage the brain to overcome food addiction. As a heroin user might rely on methadone to alleviate withdrawal, food addicts, she says, should seek alternatives that still give pleasure — a fruit smoothie, for example, instead of ice cream.