If you are addicted to chocolate and pizza, rest assured that you are not alone in the world. According to a new study, these highly processed foods are closely linked to eating disorders or behaviours that mimic addiction.
A research team from the University of Michigan and Columbia University’s New York Obesity Research Centre looked into common addictive foods. The team analysed 35 different foods items and surveyed 120 undergraduates at the University of Michigan and around 400 adults.
The team used the Yale Food Addiction Scale, developed by psychologist and lead author of the study Ashley Gearhardt, to assess food addiction risk. Chocolate topped the list of foods that are most addictive. It was followed by favourites such as ice cream, French fries, pizza and cookies, Tech Times reported.
Cheese, bacon, pretzels, fried chicken, soda and cake also made it to the top 20 list. Processed foods have higher levels of glycemic load and fat compared to the non-processed ones. Researchers found that processed foods are closely associated with eating disorders or behaviours that mimic addiction.
“Processing appears to be an essential distinguishing factor for whether a food is associated with behavioural indicators of addictive-like eating,” the researchers said. “Highly processed foods are altered to be particularly rewarding through the addition of fats and/or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar),” said researchers.
For instance, poppy is not addictive until it is processed into a refined state (opium). Grapes are not as addictive until turned into wine. Symptoms of food addiction include loss of control when it comes to quantity intake, inability to stop or cut down intake despite the presence of strong desire and continued use regardless of existing negative effects.
Researchers also found there is an increased activity in parts of the brain related to the reward system when given food cues. This increased activation in the same region is present in patients with substance-abuse illnesses. The study was published in the US National Library of Medicine.