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Can Food be Addictive?

Updated at: Nov 21, 2011
Exercise & Fitness
Written by: Vatsal AnandPublished at: Nov 21, 2011
Can Food be Addictive?

Healthy Eating- Food is addictive but not as it is normally understood but because it is due to human survival instinct.

Every one of us has suffered from withdrawal symptoms when we are without food for some time. It can range from mild hunger to the most extreme case of starvation death. It has become clear that your taste buds learn to love the kind of food you expose it to. So, if you are prone to taking sweeter diet, your inclination for sweet food would increase. The same is the case with any taste – spicy, salty or any other.

Addiction can be said to have three components:

  1. need for the addictive,
  2. symptoms of withdrawal when it is not available, and
  3. becoming tolerant to addictive, i.e. the more you get the more you want.


Food would certainly classify all these criteria but this categorisation can mask a more important question. That is the reason behind any and all sorts of addiction. This is fuelled by the variations in addiction to food – some of us get addicted to one type of food while others have different fixations, some are more vulnerable others not so much, and so on. To resolve this confusion, we need to delve into a question deeper than whether food can be addictive or not.

Of course food is addictive but the real question is, why are humans inclined to get addicted? The answer is our survival instinct. Our nervous system and endocrine system was designed to reward us the most for behaviours that are required for survival. Having food is one of those behaviours and it did require real effort until recently. Anything other than food and sex (as it is linked to survival instinct), which becomes addictive is distorting our evolutionary reward instinct built for food and sex.

So, we come to the conclusion that food is addictive but it is not in the same manner as addiction is generally understood. Food is addictive and this is the natural state of our being. It is different from any other addiction in the sense that the others hijack this natural inclination or addiction by distorting our reward system. We need to differentiate between the addiction of food due to this natural evolutionary instinct and that we get by synthetic ingredients such as MSG.


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