Given that our society is obsessed with self-fulfillment, one should not be surprised that foods are one of the many ways that humans seek happiness. A recent survey indicated that high percentages of different groups between 50 and 80 years of age exhibit an unhealthy relationship with food. By looking at how the individuals thought and acted towards a variety of unhealthy foods, they came to this conclusion. Honestly, I am surprised that the level was this low.
Our world is awash with a variety of food options. Modern transportation and modern agricultural practices allow us to have a year-round supply of previously seasonal only foods. Then we have the overabundance of the new creations, also known as processed foods. These foods do not fall into the whole foods category which come basically unaltered from nature. Instead, they most often come in a box or with a wrapper or other container. To the basic foodstuffs we expect are added a lot of chemicals and on occasion, extra nutrient fortification.
As nutrition science has progressed alongside the growing epidemic of obesity and obesity related chronic diseases, these processed foods have been getting more and more blame for the epidemic. At times, it is simply the higher sugar, salt, and fat content of these foods. At times, it is the fact that some of these foods contain artificial ingredients which trigger inflammation or other metabolic dysfunction. More and more of the general population have learned about the risks of these foods, but they are still very tempting to so many.
In this survey, they looked at the attitudes and behaviors of the individuals between age 50 and 80. The processed foods under the spotlight included sweets, sugary drinks, fast food, salty snacks, and fast food in general. They considered someone to have a negative relationship with food if they reported intense cravings, signs or withdrawal or an inability to cut down the intake of that food.
Examples of rates include:
51% of women who reported feelings of isolation as well as 26% of men.
32% of women who report fair or poor physical health as well as 14% of similar men.
45% of women with reported mental health being fair or poor as well as 23% of men.
17% of men who reported being overweight.
For those with addiction symptoms, the highest percentage were the 24% who reported having intense cravings. Besides that 19% reported that they had tried 2 or 3 times in the prior week to cut down on an unhealthy food.
In helping our patients restore healthier more abundant lives we have to do more than just tell them that a food is bad for them. We also have to recognize food addiction behavior and implement therapies which help them overcome the mental as well as the physical barriers. Treating a whole person in this way results in far more successful patient interactions.
Gearhardt A, Singer D, Kirch M, Solway E, Roberts S, Smith E, Hutchens L, Malani P, Kullgren J. Addiction to Highly Processed Food Among Older Adults. University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. January/February 2023. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.7302/6792
Thanks to Science Daily:
Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan. “One in eight Americans over 50 show signs of food addiction: Much higher percentages of possible addiction to processed food seen among older adults who are overweight or experiencing poor mental health or isolation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/01/230130090408.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.