Is Obesity Caused By Addiction?


Some in the medical community believe that addiction may be involved in another problem faced by thousands of people: obesity. In a commentary appearing in the December 21 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, obesity researcher and professor Dr. Valerie Taylor, of McMaster University, and her colleagues argue that food addiction is a reality for some people and should be a factor considered when managing weight problems.

Dr. Taylor and her colleagues note that addiction "involves a compulsive pattern of use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences," a definition that fits the behavior of compulsive overeating. As with substance addiction, food addiction can cause tolerance and withdrawal symptoms such as mood changes; in addition, a subset of obese patients who have undergone bariatric surgery develop other addictive behaviors.

Viewing obesity through the lens of addiction may provide new insight into the management of severe weight problems, and applying traditional addiction therapies to people struggling with obesity may prove effective. "The current 'blame' mentality that is often applied to individuals with obesity needs to be re-examined," argue the authors. "Although medicine may not yet accept compulsive overeating as an addiction, we cannot ignore evidence highlighting the role played by biologic vulnerability and environmental triggers."


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