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A Personalized Approach to Food Addiction: Part 2

When I think about concerns related to food & eating-weight, cravings, overeating-something that is undeniable is that not all foods impact all people in the same way. In other words, people respond to various foods and food cues differently. From the perspective of a dietitian, I can testify firsthand that messages of ‘self control’, ‘moderation’ and ‘all foods fit’ do not make sense for all people, at least at all times. 

A lot of the debate around food addiction is about how highly rewarding food really could be, and whether or not it is truly fair to compare it to substance addiction. In April of 2018, a systematic review titled ‘What is the Evidence for ‘Food Addiction?‘ was published in the journal Nutrients. This review looked at some of the addiction characteristics that have been documented to occur in relation to food, including brain reward dysfunction, preoccupation, risky use, impaired control, tolerance/withdrawal, social impairment, chronicity, and relapse. 

Brain reward dysfunction and impaired control were supported by the largest number of studies (n = 21 and n = 12, respectively). Mind you: brain reward dysfunction. Changes in the way that our brains process and respond to rewards from food. For some people, it makes a lot of sense to pull back from foods which are really feeding these reward pathways for a period of time to create equilibrium.

Here’s where personalized approaches really comes into play: for some individuals, potentially due to lower availability of dopamine receptors, they may experience less satisfaction from food than others, leading to ‘overcompensation’ with eating in an attempt to overcome a blunted or less pronounced pleasure response to food.

The way that we chose our foods-or where our cravings come from- is a complex combination of flavor & taste preferences, subliminal messaging about foods, habits and behavioral cues, social norms, availability, culinary skillsets, knowledge, and more….for some more than others, acknowledging and addressing biological influences on eating-including influences characteristic of ‘food’ or ‘eating’ addiction-makes good sense.

Interested in learning more?

Begin with my Cravings IQ Quiz to determine your craving type.

About Sarah Ferreira

Sarah Ferreira,MS,MPH,RD,CDN,CNSC,IFNCP,CHWC is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with complementary certification as an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner and Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is the owner of Mindfully Nourished Solutions, where she uses a whole-person, whole-food approach to explore the impact of nutrition on mood and cognition. Her individualized approach integrates an assessment of nutritional, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors into a collaborative nutrition care plan using cutting-edge research designed to facilitate meaningful and restorative changes based around client goals and priorities.

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