Ever feel like you just can’t get enough fries? Can’t stop yourself from taking a third slice of pizza? One chocolate bar just isn’t satisfying?
Turns out, there’s a scientific reason why: These highly processed foods are among the most addictive, according to a new study at the University of Michigan.
Highly processed foods — or foods with added fat, sugar, or refined carbohydrates — may actually trigger addictive eating. These foods are more likely to induce a blood sugar spike compared to naturally occurring foods with no additives. According to the study, this is significant because there is a link between glucose levels and areas of the brain involved with addiction.
Eating these foods could lead to characteristics similar to that of drug abuse, such as craving or consuming a high dose or a rapid rate of absorption.
These findings may seem obvious as it’s long been suspected that highly processed foods have addictive properties, but this is actually one of the first studies to specifically look at which foods can lead to food addiction.
During the study, foods with no added fat or refined carbohydrates did not have an addictive effect. Some examples of these foods are brown rice and salmon.
Nicole Avena, one of the authors on the study, explains the significance of the findings.
This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response. 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 researchers plan to do further studies examining whether addictive foods are capable of triggering changes in the brain.
Eating a lot of highly processed foods can lead to an addiction to them. This addiction can cause many health problems and should be curtailed as much as possible.
Share this information with your teens to help them develop healthy eating habits early on! It could save them from food addiction later on.
To learn more about healthy relationships with food, check out the “Secret Eating Disorder (You’ve Never Heard Of)” story from the March issue of Choices! Choices is a teen health and life skills magazine for middle and high schoolers.