- Fatty and sugar-rich foods, like potato chips and donuts, rival the addictiveness of nicotine and cocaine.
- An alarming 14% of adults and 12% of children are addicted to ultra-processed foods.
- Ultra-processed foods trigger dopamine levels akin to addictive substances.
Americans might be hooked on more than just their daily cup of joe. According to recent shocking research, the very foods that grace our pantries and fridges are as addictive as some illicit drugs.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the study’s grim findings underscore that roughly 14% of adults and 12% of children are in the grips of ultra-processed foods. These aren’t just any foods. We’re talking about those saturated with refined sugars, artificial flavors, and unhealthy fats – items such as ice cream, potato chips, sugary cereals, and the like.
So, what’s the scientific reasoning? These edibles closely mirror the dopamine spike in our brains triggered by hard-hitting substances like nicotine and even alcohol. Not just comparable, but they also surpass the addictiveness of drugs like heroin.
Florida’s addiction specialist Dr. Daniel Bober provided a stark perspective: “What really makes this dangerous is this addiction we have to ultra-processed foods. And these are foods that contain chemicals, emulsifiers, artificial colors. They also contain refined sugars and just the right amount of salt, sugar, and fat to be highly reinforced, which can lead some people to engage in compulsive eating.”
Considering the obesity epidemic, it’s no wonder experts are drawing parallels between the hazardous nature of these foods and illegal narcotics such as cocaine.
Bober drives the point home: “We want a hit, and we want it fast. Whether it’s from cocaine, food, shopping, it all has one thing in common. And that is using compulsive behavior to deal with uncomfortable feelings like loneliness, depression, isolation. It’s something we need to look at because it’s part of our culture.”
The authors of the study echoed this sentiment, noting: “Ultra-processed foods high in refined carbohydrates and added fats are highly rewarding, appealing, and consumed compulsively and may be addictive. Understanding of these foods as addictive could lead to novel approaches in the realm of social justice, clinical care, and policy approaches.”
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