The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Releases Novel Report on Food Addiction | Center on Addiction

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Releases Novel Report on Food Addiction

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Releases Novel Report on Food Addiction

Certain Types of Compulsive Eating can Best be Explained through the Lens of Addiction 
NEW YORK, N.Y., February 1, 2016

Today, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse announces the release of a report that marks the organization’s first extension in focus beyond substance addiction to the behavioral addictions. Presenting a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on food addiction, the report lays out the characterizing symptoms, risk factors and underlying neurobiological characteristics of food addiction, and how these features overlap with those of obesity, eating disorders and substance addiction.

The rising obesity epidemic across the nation has propelled scientists to investigate the many ways in which individual vulnerabilities interact with our current food environment to promote excessive and unhealthy eating. As a result, food addiction has emerged as an exciting new field of scientific study, with researchers examining excessive and disordered eating within the framework of addiction. Research suggests that applying what we know about addiction to better understand certain unhealthy eating behaviors and food-related disorders can help shed light on a major threat to our nation’s public health.

This report, Understanding and Addressing Food Addiction: A Science-Based Approach to Policy, Practice and Research, highlights how the knowledge and experience gained from years of substance use research and work in substance prevention, intervention and policy might be applied to controlling unhealthy eating and the food environment that contributes to it. It offers evidence-based recommendations for policy, prevention, health care practice and research to help reduce the deadly and costly health consequences of unhealthy eating, and informative resources for further examination of this evolving area of study. 

“We are excited to extend our expertise in substance addiction to the behavioral addictions through this report and our new research and policy collaboration with Yale University,” said Samuel A. Ball, PhD, President and CEO of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “This paper employs lessons learned from years of research on the addictive substances to improve our understanding and approach to an issue of utmost importance to our nation’s public health: unhealthy or disordered eating behavior and the role this plays in the medical disease of obesity.” 

Individuals with food addiction have faced similar problems to those who suffer from substance addiction, including stigma, shame and tremendous difficulty managing a significant threat to their health and well-being. This paper includes recommendations for addressing these important issues.

“From what we know about substance use and addiction, we feel that many of the measures that have proven to be effective in policy, prevention and clinical practice might fruitfully be employed to reduce the risk and consequences of food addiction,” said Linda Richter, PhD, Director of Policy Research and Analysis at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, and the report’s lead author. “Given the extent to which obesity and unhealthy eating contribute to sickness and skyrocketing health care costs, it is well worth our time to marshal all available resources to better understand food addiction and the strategies that may help to improve how people eat and the quality of the food supply.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • Evidence regarding the prevalence of food addiction and its co-occurrence with obesity, binge eating disorder and other health conditions
  • The risk factors, characterizing symptoms and biological mechanisms of food addiction and related disorders and how these overlap with other eating disorders and with substance addiction
  • Recommendations for policy, prevention, health care practice and research, and resources for additional information

The report is available for download at no cost and can be found on our website at:    

About The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

We are a national nonprofit research and policy organization focused on improving the understanding, prevention and treatment of substance use and addiction. Founded in 1992 by former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., our interdisciplinary experts collaborate with others to promote effective policies and practices. We conduct and synthesize research, inform and guide the public, evaluate and improve health care, and analyze and recommend policies on substance use and addiction. For more information, visit


Michelle Conley
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Phone: (212) 841-5206


Director of Digital Communications

(212) 841.5225


Media Specialist

(212) 841.5206 ​


Communications and Digital Associate

(212) 841.5206

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