The psychological compulsion to eat is driven by the positive feelings that the brain associates with eating, but it is not as bad as drug addiction.

"The brain does not respond to nutrients in the same way as it does to addictive drugs such as heroin or cocaine," the researchers said.

People can become addicted to eating for its own sake, not to consume specific foods such as those high in sugar or fat.

"So the focus on tackling the problem of obesity should be moved from food itself and towards the individual's relationship with eating," the researchers said.

"More avenues for treatment may open up if we think about this condition as a behavioral addiction rather than a substance-based addiction," said John Menzies from the University of Edinburgh in Britain.

For the study, the researchers examined the scientific evidence for food addiction as a substance-based addiction.

"There has been a major debate over whether sugar is addictive," said Professor Suzanne Dickson from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

"There is currently very little evidence to support the idea that any ingredient, food item, additive or combination of ingredients has addictive properties," Dickson added.

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