Childhood Obesity + Food Addiction

Food Addiction

“For the past 10 years, I have noticed a connection between childhood obesity, eating disorders, and the increasing complications of both in my clinical work as well as in my research. As part of my mission to shed light on these problems, particularly as they relate to US children, I find it important to provide both by readers and clients with relevant informative articles. You can view all of my Childhood Obesity Articles here. Also, be sure to read my Nutrition, Fitness, and Health articles here.

As shown in my Childhood Obesity Infographic, the childhood obesity rate in the United States has increased by 500% since 1970 and it shows no sign of slowing. It is predicted that 43% of our nation’s population will be obese by 2018. Are our country’s children becoming addicted to food? Is it possible that food addiction is playing a role in the seemingly uncontrollable childhood obesity epidemic?

According to Mark Gold, chief of addiction medicine at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute, food addiction involves:

  • Eating too much despite the consequences, even dire consequences to health
  • Being preoccupied with food, food preparation and meals
  • Trying and failing to cut back on food intake
  • Feeling guilty about eating and overeating

Although there are many factors that contribute to children becoming addicted to food, one of the most common causes are diets that consist primarily of processed foods. It is estimated that 90-95% of processed foods today contain food additives. In the past 40 years, we have seen an increase in food additives that are known for their addictive properties. For example, since 1948 the amount of MSG that has been added to processed foods has doubled every decade. In a 60 Minutes interview Givaudan, one of the largest producers of food additives in the world, openly admitted that the main purpose of food additives is to cause consumers to develop a strong desire for the foods. The company executive even agreed with Morley Safer’s word “addiction” in describing the strength of this desire.

What amount of food additives are our children consuming? Consider this:

  • 180 days of every year 31 million children in our country eat a processed fast food breakfast and processed fast food lunch in the school cafeteria
  • 84% of parents take their kids out to eat fast food at least once every week
  • 30 years ago children ate one snack a day. Today’s children eat 3 snacks a day, with 1 in 5 children eating 6 snacks a day. According to the most recent NHANES III analysis, the most popular snacks for children aged 6 -11 in order of preference are:

o Soft drinks

o Salty snacks such as potato chips, corn chips and popcorn

o Cookies

o Non-chocolate candy

o Artificially flavored fruit beverages

o Whole milk and chocolate milk

o Two percent/reduced fat milk

o White bread

o Chocolate candy

o Cake

o Ice cream

o Fruit

  • More processed food is consumed in the United States than any other country. In 2009, 787 pounds of rocessed food was consumed per capita. In comparison, the same year 602 pounds of fresh food was consumed per capita.

Food addiction can be prevented by becoming educated as parents about the role food additives play in food addictions and why children’s foods in particular are targeted.

Food addiction is a treatable disorder, with family-based behavioral therapy being the most successful treatment. Therapy often focuses on family lifestyle changes, weight-related behavior, parenting skills and setting achievable goals. Family-based therapy that incorporates Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is thought to have an even higher success rate. If you are unsure,or if you or your child is affected by food addiction, check out the Yale Food Addiction Scale and discuss the results with your doctor.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible.

Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. //’


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