Scientific Research

Evolution of Food Addiction

Since 1994, there has been a steady increase in research on food addiction. Studies have appeared in over one hundred peer reviewed scientific journals. In 2009, several members of the Food Addiction Institute’s (FAI) International Advisory Board published “Physical Craving and Food Addiction: A Scientific Review”. The Refined Food Addiction Research Foundation (ReFA) summarized thirty-six science review articles, each showing consensus on a specific point regarding chemical dependency on food, and at the Seattle Summit on Obesity and Food Addiction, prominent world researchers in the field summarized the science for health professionals and the general public. FAI now has a bibliography of 2,733 peer reviewed articles and books since 2009, and hundreds more have been published since.

When there was little rigorous scientific research on food addiction, some erroneously jumped to the conclusion that food addiction did not exist. In fact, since 1960, self-assessed food addicts were successfully dealing with their chronic obesity and compulsive eating by treating themselves as if they had a substance use disorder to food. There were over one hundred thousand just in the food related 12 Step fellowship of Overeaters Anonymous (OA), half of which an internal study showed were abstinent and maintaining an average fifty pound weight loss; they used the literature and suggested the approach of Alcoholics Anonymous simply substituting “food” for “alcohol” and “compulsive overeating” or “food addiction” for “alcoholism.” In the l980’s and 1990’s there were over one hundred professional residential programs and thousands of health professionals using the addictive model for treating food addicts when 12 Step programs were not enough. Now there is substantial scientific evidence that people can become food addicted and that it is treatable. This section of the website is devoted to keeping scientists, health professionals, food addicts, and the general public up to date with the science of food addiction.