Harvard Mental Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Is it possible to become addicted to chocolate?

Q. A friend jokes she is a "chocoholic." Can you really become addicted to chocolate or other foods?

A. With so many Americans overweight or obese, public health experts are also asking this question. Since it is so difficult to follow the simple advice to "eat a healthy diet" and "exercise more," they realize that food might have addictive properties. Yet common sense demands that food — even chocolate — be placed in a different category from substances like heroin or alcohol.

Addiction involves three essential components: intense craving, loss of control over the object of that craving, and continuing involvement despite bad consequences. Preliminary evidence demonstrates that people can exhibit all three elements when it comes to food.

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