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Jun 12, 2014 02:38 PM EDT

Can People Be Addicted To Food?

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Women with weight problems are more impulsive than average when it comes to food, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Luxembourg found that they lack psychological inhibition, or are more instinctively stimulated by images of food as well as lacking contemplative will power.

They said some women reported food craving even if they had eaten recently, a symptom of possible food addiction.

"All addictions are similar in that the sufferer craves to excess the feel-good buzz they receive from chemical neurotransmitters produced when they eat, gamble, smoke, have sex or take drugs," Claus Voegele, professor of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Luxembourg, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers flashed images of fatty or sweet food (a burger, cake, pizza etc.) and non-food items (a sock, a mug, a shoe etc.) on a computer screen. The women were instructed to click as fast as possible on either the food or non-food pictures. The women with weight problems performed less well than the average.

Tests were run either three hours after eating or just after meals.

The researchers found that several women with weight problems said the test had provoked food craving, regardless of how recently they had eaten.

"This suggests that some people may have an instinctive, psychological predisposition to binge eating," Voegele said.

He pointed to other research which indicates both nature and nurture are at the root of this condition.

"People may over-eat to comfort themselves, because they are bored or just out of habit," he said. At the other end of the spectrum, those with excessive control may suffer disorders such as anorexia nervosa.

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy.

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