Behavioral Addictions (A Gearhardt, Section Editor)

Current Addiction Reports

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 89-95

First online:

If Certain Foods are Addictive, How Might this Change the Treatment of Compulsive Overeating and Obesity?

  • Caroline DavisAffiliated withSchool of Kinesiology & Health Science, York University Email author 
  • , Jacqueline C. CarterAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland


This review summarizes the evidence — both current and from an historic perspective — that many processed foods, specifically those in which the palatability has been enhanced with sugar, fat, and salt, have addictive properties similar to drugs such as nicotine, alcohol, and stimulants. The addictive potential of these foods thereby adds to a growing acceptance of ‘food addiction’ as a viable clinical entity and an important area for further investigation. The evidence that some cases of binge eating disorder can best be conceptualized as a food addiction also has important treatment implications for those suffering from compulsive overeating. This review also discusses the utility of interventions such as motivational interviewing, psycho-educational programs focused on the neurobiologic aspects of excessive consumption of hyper-palatable foods, and the development of cognitive behavioral strategies to increase an individual’s ability to tolerate food cravings as temporary states, and better inhibit urges to overeat.


Behavioral addictions Addictive foods Compulsive overeating Obesity Treatment Interventions Food addiction Binge eating disorder Motivational interviewing Psycho-education programs Cravings Inhibitory control Hyper-palatable foods