1 in 8 Americans have food addiction, report finds

A recent poll shows 1 in 8 Americans over the age of 50 are addicted to highly processed foods, like sweets, salty snacks, sugary drinks and fast food.

That’s not surprising to Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian for Cleveland Clinic, who said those foods are hyper-palatable.

“A hyper-palatable food is a food that studies have shown really highjack areas in the brain,” Kirkpatrick explained. “They’ll make you feel great. They’ll take away the sensation of fullness. So when we look at something that is hyper-palatable, it’s very hard to stop eating that.”

Signs of food addiction can include intense cravings, having trouble cutting down on how much you’re eating, and experiencing withdrawal.

Kirkpatrick said there’s also no one direct cause for food addiction, it can vary from person-to-person.

For example, someone might be triggered by an event or a person; or use food to help cope with their emotions.

That’s why she said it’s so important to have a therapist involved in this type of issue because they can help get to the root cause.

And from there, a registered dietitian can help pick the right foods to eat.

“We have studies that look at food addiction and looking at trauma in childhood. We have studies looking at if your parents, one or two parents were alcoholics, there was a new study showing that you were more likely to be going into food addiction,” she noted. “So there are a lot of things outside of the dietetic world that are more in the mental health world -- this is why a therapist is going to be so crucial to work with.”

Researchers involved in the poll suggest physicians ask their patients about food addictions, which can ultimately help them get the right treatment and improve their overall physical and mental health.