Open Feedback Dialog

Are You a Food Addict?

By Cynthia J. Turner, PhD




A study was completed in April of 2011 by Ashley Gearhardt, doctoral student at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Obesity Research. The study utilized the MRI to examine activity in the brains of 39 women who were shown pictures of delicious milkshakes. The women who had previously scored high on Gerhardt’s Yale Food Addiction Scale, which includes items such as “My behavior with respect to food and eating causes significant distress,” showed increased activity in the part of the brain connected with cravings and increased desire for food. These findings suggest that when individuals with food addiction symptoms are shown a milkshake, they have a brain response that is similar to the brain response of a drug addict exposed to the availability of drugs.


This study is of critical importance to weight loss surgery patients in that it offers scientific evidence that some people may overeat specifically due to an actual physical addiction to food. Weight loss surgery alone may not cure the addiction. Other variables may come into play causing rebound weight gain problems. We live in a culture of unavoidable exposure to food, its imagery and advertising. Identification of this problem, further education, counseling and support groups for weight loss surgery patients can all lead to more awareness of food addiction--which may lead to skill building and prevention of rebound weight gain postoperatively. The Yale Food Addiction Scale is available free online. Take the assessment and get help if you need it.