My interest in food
addiction piqued when I started working with men and women who came to me
for a wide-range of health issues. No matter the subject of wellness support,
weight always seemed to be an additional concern.
I noticed a pattern in my clients that tended to delay results or cause a return
of symptoms. It was based on the roller-coaster of a dysfunctional relationship
to certain detrimental foods. For some, it appeared to be an actual addiction.
They wanted to be healthy, and were even given well-respected and legitimate
advice from previous practitioners. Still, the knowledge of “the right foods to
eat,” and the ever-changing, dizzying lists of “good foods” and “bad foods”
didn’t seem to change their behavior. Why?
began searching and applying my background in psychology, mind-body medicine,
naturopathic philosophy, and functional medicine and discovered that yes, food
could be a form
of addiction. Though not reported as very common, an average of less 10% in
several studies, I feel that the perhaps an “unease” around food is very
time, I quickly learned that dietary changes, no matter how balanced or
extreme, only stuck so long “the psychology of eating,” a term coined by nutritional guru Marc
David, was not considered. Other factors that affect cravings and
willpower, such as biochemical differences in brain signaling, hormonal
imbalances, sleep, lifestyle, nutrient deficiencies, digestive disturbances,
and eating foods
that are designed to be addictive without consumer’s knowledge,were reviewed recently and
in some of my
previous blogs. The solution was clear, recommendations had to be
reason, I was excited to see a recent study of 1,607 individuals (1,269
completed the study) across seven European contents that demonstrated greater
gains in dietary change adjustments in a dietary plan that included personalized nutrition (PN) advice.
study, subjects were recruited to an internet-delivered intervention (Food4Me)
and randomized to receive conventional dietary advice (control) or to the PN
approach. PN was based on either an individual baseline diet, an individual
baseline diet plus phenotype (anthropometry and blood biomarkers), or
individual baseline diet plus phenotype plus genotype (five diet-responsive genetic variants).
In this way, researchers could compare the effects of dietary targets based on
personalized advice and how additional information on phenotype and genetics
would influence follow through.
were based on dietary intake, anthropometry, and blood biomarkers measured at
baseline and after 3 and 6 months’ intervention. The authors stated:
Following a 6-month intervention,
participants randomized to PN consumed less red meat [-5.48 g,
(95% confidence interval:-10.8,-0.09), P = 0.046],
salt [-0.65 g, (−1.1,-0.25), P = 0.002]
and saturated fat [-1.14 % of energy, (−1.6,-0.67), P < 0.0001],
increased folate [29.6 µg, (0.21,59.0), P = 0.048]
intake and had higher Healthy Eating Index scores [1.27, (0.30, 2.25), P
= 0.010) than those randomized to
the control arm. There was no evidence that including phenotypic and phenotypic
plus genotypic information enhanced the effectiveness of the PN advice.
I’ll review some caveats of a low saturated intake for everyone in a future
blog, but the point is that by providing individuals with specific dietary
advice based on their genetics and current health status wasn’t as powerful as
an internet-based tailored program that was specific for them. In other words,
feedback and interaction count for changing food habits.
loss and optimizing nutrition isn’t just about knowledge of food and controlling
intake, but about providing comprehensive tools that fully address the whole
person. In fact, even their sense of smell and taste can be impactful in
modulating appetite. I just wrote a blog on my homepage on how even our sense
of smell may impact hunger cues and dietary choices. You can read that here.
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Field AE, Rimm EB. Food addiction scale measurement in 2 cohorts of middle-aged
and older women. American Journal
of Nutrition. January 22, 2014. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.068965
K. How Common is Food Addiction? A Critical Look. Authority Nutrition. https://authoritynutrition.com/how-common-is-food-addiction/
University. Personalized nutrition is better than a ‘one size fits all’
approach in improving diets. Science Daily. August 16, 2016.
C, Livingston KM, Marsaux CFM, Macready AL, Fallaize R, O’Donovan CB, et al. Effect of personalized nutrition on
health-related behaviour change: evidence from the Food4me European randomized
controlled trial. International Journal of Epidemiology, August
Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastain A, Mann N, Lindeberg
S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand Miller. Origins and evolution of the Western
diet: health implications for the 21st century. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2005;