Watch out for your burger, it might give you a high!

Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group/ Delhi

Amrita Sinha, aged 26 years, a law researcher from Delhi can’t imagine a single day without a burger and French fries. This is her staple diet.

Welcome to the world of ever growing food addicts. Next time before you bite into your favourite snack ask yourself the question whether you are really hungry or you just want to eat because food is available?

Quite often it is an addiction, especially when you are accustomed to a sedentary life style. Generally too there have observed a lot of changes in the pattern of food intake over the years.

For instance the entry of liquid diet has altered food habits significantly. According to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report, Indians are growing high on liquid diet. The consumer’s expenditure on beverages has seen a rise over the last decade while as the expenditure on other food items has declined.

The food intake change has particular been felt in the young India. Dr Ritesh Gupta, head clinical operation – endocrinology, at Fortis Vasant Kunj, earlier told Zee News on August 27th, 2012, “Total calorie intake of an average youth has increased over the past many years. Diet has gone for a transition from simple homemade food to easy available processed food and beverages.”

Obesity too is catching young and especially the fairer sex. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the percentage of married women aged 15-49 years who are overweight or obese increased from 11 percent in NFHS- 2 to 15 percent in NFHS-3. Obesity is said to be caused by a variety of reasons primary of them being excess food intake.

The age-group (15-29) consumes more meals outside as per 66th NSSO report ‘Nutritional Intake in India’. This trend transcends the urban–rural divide. The average number of meals consumed per person in the age–group (15-29) on payment in urban areas stood at 4.11 for male and 1.07 for female. The figure for rural India stood at 0.83 for male and 0.16 for female respectively.

“Popularity of fast food among the young as also sustained consumption of such kinds of food can further raise various health concerns like obesity, cardiac disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” agreed Dr. Jitendra Nagpal, consultant, psychiatry at Moolchand Medcity.

The medical fraternity is of the opinion that food is a biological necessity, a distinction that makes it unlike any of the other substances or behaviours typically considered as addictive. But doctors admit that there are certain kinds of food to which certain sections of society are getting addicted.

Dr. Nagpal at Moolchand, said, “Mostly foods with high levels of sugar, fat and salt are addictive. Various studies suggest that certain food with high level of sugar stimulates a greater release of chemicals in the brain including dopamine, the pleasure molecule.”

Detailing the reasons behind the cause of food cravings among certain sections of society, Dr. Nagpal at Moolchand Medcity further added, “Although the exact cause for addiction of food is difficult to pinpoint yet it may develop as a result of a complex medley of biochemical processes and a variety of hormonal and emotional factors.”

Does familiarity breed addiction? “Salivation is a conditioned response to only known or food tasted earlier,” agreed Dr. S Sudarsanan, senior consultant, psychiatry at Rockland Hospital.