Is there any scientific literature investigating physical and psychological addiction to white flour made of wheat?

Some studies, like this one talk about this subject but I'm not well informed and interested to know more by experts' voices.

  • 2
    This seems a bit out of left field. Before this gets closed as too broad or unclear, do you know of any actual claims that flour might be addictive? That way folks can better answer if there have been any studies investigating those claims. – Robert Cartaino Apr 22 '15 at 14:06
  • Ok quoted one study. Please don't vote to close, just help to improve the question. Is it better now? – Attilio Apr 22 '15 at 14:43
  • As the duplicate answers show, this is essentially a duplicate question (And I realize the original question that had both elements, sugar and flour was flagged as too broad). Since the other question has both this answer and a second, accepted answer, I am closing this as a duplicate of that one. – JohnP Jun 3 '15 at 18:02
  • @JohnP yep: it has gone exactly as you realized: flagged as too broad on health.SE, while this is the exact same way scientists think about addictive food, not separate ingredients. one more reason to think that sometimes we should be more tolerant here on health.SE and accept things as they are before flagging/downvoting.. – Attilio Jun 3 '15 at 18:22
  • @JohnP so shall I restore the original form of 'food' addiction? the title now ('sugar') is misleading – Attilio Jun 3 '15 at 18:24

Most of the studies study food addiction as a whole, because most of the biochemical mechanisms of food addiction are similar for the consumptions of sugar, refined flour, fats, caffeine and other substances. Also, addiction has been studied in relation of people's habit of eating food that is prepared with a combination of ingredients, as donuts or french fries, not separated ingredients. There are many studies that address the issue of excessive consumption of food as a real addiction, similar to that caused by drugs such as cocaine, heroin, alcohol and tobacco (Blumenthal & Gold, 2010; Moreno & Tandon, 2011).

Dr. Ifland identifies the refined products (sweeteners, carbohydrates, fat, salt and caffeine) as the substances that have the greatest potential to cause addiction. Our body is programmed to recognize sugars and fatty substances as fundamental for life and health: they're energy reserves and address us toward the consumption of fruit, rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. With the refining of foods we have an exaggerated concentration of sugars and fats, and this disrupts our evolutionary adaptation (Ifland et al., 2009).

In the explanation of the mechanisms of addiction, there are at least three factors that contribute to the excessive consumption of foods. In the case of sugar and refined flour, part of the explanation goes through the concept of glycemic index: foods with high glycemic index - and load - cause a rise in blood sugar, which leads to an increase of insulinemia and subsequent hypoglycemia that is felt as hunger (Lennerz et al., 2013; Ludwig, 2002). Other explanations rely on the production of endogenous opioids caused by sugars that then would act as stimulants (Drewnowski, Krahn, Demitrack, Nairn, & Gosnell, 1992, 1995), and the lower efficiency of dopamine receptors, which would lead to increased consumption of food to achieve the same satisfaction (Wang et al., 2001; Wang, Volkow, Thanos, & Fowler, 2004). Lastly, a final interpretation refers to the fact that a high consumption of carbohydrates leads to increased levels of serotonin, which is perceived as a pleasant sensation (Wurtman, 1988).


Blumenthal, D. M., & Gold, M. S. (2010). Neurobiology of food addiction. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 13(4), 359–65. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833ad4d4

Drewnowski, A., Krahn, D., Demitrack, M., Nairn, K., & Gosnell, B. (1992). Taste responses and preferences for sweet high-fat foods: Evidence for opioid involvement. Physiology & Behavior, 51(2), 371–379. doi:10.1016/0031-9384(92)90155-U

Drewnowski, A., Krahn, D., Demitrack, M., Nairn, K., & Gosnell, B. (1995). Naloxone, an opiate blocker, reduces the consumption of sweet high-fat foods in obese and lean female binge eaters. Am J Clin Nutr, 61(6), 1206–1212. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/61/6/1206.short

Ifland, J. R., Preuss, H. G., Marcus, M. T., Rourke, K. M., Taylor, W. C., Burau, K., … Manso, G. (2009). Refined food addiction: a classic substance use disorder. Medical Hypotheses, 72(5), 518–26. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2008.11.035

Lennerz, B. S., Alsop, D. C., Holsen, L. M., Stern, E., Rojas, R., Ebbeling, C. B., … Ludwig, D. S. (2013). Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(3), 641–7. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.064113

Ludwig, D. S. (2002). The Glycemic Index. JAMA, 287(18), 2414. doi:10.1001/jama.287.18.2414

Moreno, C., & Tandon, R. (2011). Should overeating and obesity be classified as an addictive disorder in DSM-5? Current Pharmaceutical Design, 17(12), 1128–31. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21492085

Wang, G.-J., Volkow, N. D., Logan, J., Pappas, N. R., Wong, C. T., Zhu, W., … Fowler, J. S. (2001). Brain dopamine and obesity. The Lancet, 357(9253), 354–357. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(00)03643-6

Wang, G.-J., Volkow, N. D., Thanos, P. K., & Fowler, J. S. (2004). Similarity between obesity and drug addiction as assessed by neurofunctional imaging: a concept review. Journal of Addictive Diseases, 23(3), 39–53. doi:10.1300/J069v23n03_04

Wurtman, J. J. (1988). Carbohydrate craving, mood changes, and obesity. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 49 Suppl, 37–9. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3045110

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