Food is not addictive like hard drugs as it does not rewire the brain of users, an FSAI conference heard today.
Some people may suffer from an eating addiction but it is not linked to a particular substance like sugar, international experts said.
Dr John Menzies of the University of Edinburgh said that food was not addictive because it didn't cause neurological changes in the brain to make users seek it out the way hard drugs did.
However over-eating could be a behavioural addiction in the way gambling was as a subset of the population did have a problem with it.
Dr Menzies said that there were two processes regulating food intake in the brain - homeostasis which ensures we get enough food to eat and the hedonic or pleasure principle where we seek out more palatable foods such as sugar.
However while the pleasure pathways are the same ones that are hijacked by addictive drugs like heroin or cocaine, this happens in a different way to food, he said.
Prof Julian Mercer of the University of Aberdeen said most weight problems developed very slowly over many years.
"Evidence that specific foods or ingredients are addictive in an analogous way to drugs of abuse, alcohol or nicotine is largely absent."
"Eating addiction might be a more appropriate term to describe problematic relations with food, avoiding the implication that food contains addictive chemicals."