In their new documentary Fed Up, Katie Couric and Laurie David draw attention to the important issues surrounding the food we are eating and why it is making us so sick. With estimates that approximately 75 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020, no one needs persuading that obesity is a grave public health threat. However, for some people, considerable convincing is still required surrounding one likely cause of this rampant obesity: food addiction.

Addiction to highly-palatable, processed foods may resemble nicotine addiction. People are not going to overdose on French fries, but addictive eaters may lose years of their lives to chronic diet-related diseases. A recent study in Canada found that 5.4 percent of adults in the general population exhibited signs of food addiction (which is similar to the prevalence of alcohol dependence), and these individuals were more likely to be obese and had higher body fat percentages.

Our modern food environment has been beneficial in many ways, but we must also consider the risks associated with quick fix (e.g., cheap and calorically-dense) foods. Many modern-day foods consist of a combination of ingredients that change the brain in ways that subsequently promote more consumption, fueling our obesity epidemic. If certain foods, or their particular ingredients, are in any way addictive, we need to take this concept seriously. We have much more than weight to lose if we don’t.

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