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Eating Habits of Obese People Similar to Those of Drug Addicts
By Leslie Thompson
Millions of Americans have a love-hate relationship with their weight and it’s no surprise why—only 10 percent of people who lose weight through diet and exercise manage to keep the weight off for five years. The reasons behind the high failure rate of dieting are constantly being challenged, and a new study suggests that the eating habits of the obese may in fact resemble the behavior of drug addicts, which may explain why it’s so hard for some people to avoid over-eating.
In a recent study, obese and non-obese women were tested to determine how they responded to high-energy, high-density snacks. The study divided the participants into three groups based on the caloric count of the food they consumed—100 calorie snacks, 300 calorie snacks, and zero calorie snacks. The study then asked the volunteers to “work” for their favorite snack by performing tasks via a computer program. Once the task was completed, the women earned points toward food.
Over two weeks, the participants were given pre-portioned snacks to eat each day. At the end of the study, the results indicated that both obese and non-obese women showed no increased motivation to work for their snacks. However, obese women consuming the 300-calorie snack portions actually worked harder for the food, even if they didn’t feel like eating. This behavior resembles drug addicts’ sensitization to drugs—after prolonged drug use, an addict experiences an increased effect of the drug, so it becomes increasingly difficult to break the drug cycle.
Although overeating is not yet classified as an addiction, more and more studies are showing that overeaters are not eating out of hunger but for other underlying reasons. As further research is performed, new insight is revealing reasons why people turn to food as means to cope with other issues.