We all know that junk food like pizza, ice cream, and soda is bad for our health, but is it also addicting?
The study of food addiction is an emerging and controversial field. But according to Ashley Gearhardt, a researcher who focuses on food addiction at the University of Michigan and helped establish the guidelines for the Yale Food Addiction Scale, highly processed foods can lead to classic signs of addiction like loss of control, tolerance, and withdrawal. A growing body of research backs her up—and that’s especially concerning in children because an addiction forged in a child’s early years could put the child at more serious risk for chronically unhealthy eating into adulthood.
First Lady Michelle Obama, in a rare overtly political speech on Tuesday, admonished Congressional Republicans for a proposal that would weaken nutritional standards in school lunches, dismantling a policy she has personally fought for. “The stakes couldn’t be higher on this issue,” the First Lady said. She may be right in more ways than one.
Less is known about food addiction in kids than in adults, but some research suggests that kids, like adults, have a relationship with food that looks an awful lot like traditional addiction to alcohol or drugs. A 2011 qualitative study of almost 30,000 people ages 8-21 examined poll responses, chat room transcripts and message board comments from overweight and obese children on a website launched as an overweight intervention tool for teens and preteens. The researchers found that children used classic addiction language when describing their relationship to food, including an inability to cut down, continued use despite negative consequences, and withdrawal symptoms when those foods were not available. The research was published in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention.
Read the full article "Junk Food May Be 'Addictive' to Kids" at Time.