Highly processed foods are addictive

Highly processed foods are addictive

Fresh and organic foods are key to optimal health.

Processed foods, however, can be hard to avoid.

A new study from University of Michigan shows that highly processed foods are addictive, which explains why they are so hard to avoid.

Foods like chocolate, pizza, and French fries are among the most addictive.

This is one of the first studies to focus on which foods specifically are the most addictive. This has become of increasing importance to scientists, especially with the growing obesity problem.

Previous studies have shown that processed foods, or foods with added carbs and fat may cause addictive eating behavior. Research has also shown that some subjects have signs of substance dependence for food.

“Despite highly processed foods generally known to be highly tasty and preferred, it is unknown whether these types of foods can elicit addiction-like responses in humans, nor is it known which specific foods produce these responses,” said Ashley Gearhardt, U-M assistant professor of psychology.

Fresh, unprocessed foods such as brown rice and salmon did not cause addictive eating.

“Individuals with symptoms of food addiction or with higher body mass indexes reported greater problems with highly processed foods, suggesting some may be particularly sensitive to the possible rewarding properties of these foods,” said Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.

If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” Schulte added.

Nicole Avena, assistant professor of pharmacology and systems therapeutics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and co-author on this study believes these findings are very significant.

This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response,” Avena said. “This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”

The research team explains that the next step is to find whether addictive foods can change brain circuitry in the way that drugs do.

The study showing that processed foods are addictive was published in the journal Plos One.

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1. “Highly Processed Foods Linked to Addictive Eating.” University of Michigan. University of Michigan, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
2. “Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load.” Plos One. Plos One, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

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