The relationship between food addiction & dopamine

27 March 2024 by Nore Hoogstad

The relationship between food addiction & dopamine

Article by Nore Hoogstad, FNTP

The relationship between food addiction and dopamine is complex.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (messenger) that motivates us and helps us feel pleasure. It’s involved in reward, our ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter.

How Food and Dopamine are Connected

  1. When you eat food you like, dopamine is released in the brain's reward pathway. This contributes to the pleasurable feelings associated with eating, and can occur even before you put food in your mouth
  2. Over time, the brain associates certain foods with dopamine release. Foods high in sugar, fat and salt can trigger a greater dopamine response. This can contribute to cravings and a desire to eat these foods again
  3. Sometimes, repeated exposure to highly-reward foods can lead to a reduced dopamine sensitivity, or desensitisation. You might need more of the same food to experience the same level of pleasure and reward
  4. People with food addiction may exhibit behaviours like compulsive overeating, driven in part by the desire to experience the pleasurable feelings of dopamine release
  5. They can also experience cravings and negative emotions when attempting to cut back on or eliminate foods that trigger dopamine release

Impulse Control and Decision Making

Dopamine is also involved in impulse control and decision making. Changes in dopamine signalling can affect someone’s ability to resist the urge to consume highly rewarding foods, contributing to difficulties in managing food intake.

I’m not a food addiction expert, but I know about neurotransmitters and can help you find ways manage food and dopamine.

This might involve mindfulness, nutrition education, coaching, removing subconscious blocks, a gradual withdrawal plan, regular exercise, replacement strategies.

Study Nutrition

Nore Hoogstad

Nore is the founder of Gutsy by Nutrition, and is a writer and Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner with an interest in complex illnesses and emotional issues.  Nore helps people return to health and live the life they were meant to live using personalisd science-based programs and minset.