New research shows that highly processed foods can be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine, and some health experts say they It calls for warning labels to be placed on snacks being consumed. This new study analyzed the results of approximately 300 previous nutritional studies. recently published peer-reviewed british medical journal.
The study was led by University of Michigan professor Ashley Gearhart, who previously applied the same criteria that experts use to diagnose substance addiction to identify uncontrollable, excessive consumption, cravings, and health problems. We developed the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS), which includes measures such as continuing to consume food despite the potential for adverse effects on the condition. effect.
Although addiction to certain foods is not included in common diagnostic frameworks for assessing mental health, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), research on the topic It has grown rapidly over the past 20 years. Much of this research uses his YFAS, which was developed to measure food dependence by assessing DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorders in relation to food intake.
Study finds 14% of adults have UPF addiction
To complete the new study, researchers reviewed 281 previous studies conducted in 36 countries and found that 14% of adults are addicted to UPF (ultra-processed foods). . The researchers were alarmed by this finding because of the high levels of UPF in modern diets, such as cookies, ice cream, sausages, sugary soft drinks and breakfast cereals.
“The combination of refined carbohydrates and fats found in UPF appears to have a super-additive effect on the brain’s reward system than macronutrients alone, potentially making these foods more addictive,” Gearhart said. write the study authors. Their new discovery.
Although UPF is becoming more common, previous research has shown that it is associated with serious medical conditions such as cancer, early death, cognitive decline, and mental health problems.
“Many UPFs are addictive for many people,” says author Chris Van Tureken. Said guardian About new studies. “And when people experience food poisoning, it’s almost always due to UPF products.”
The exact reason why UPF causes food addiction is still not understood. Some experts believe that the root cause of food addiction may not be a specific substance, but a combination of her UPF taken together.
Although food additives are “unlikely to be addictive in themselves,” they may be “enhancing agents” for their caloric effects, the researchers wrote.
Food addiction, similar to drugs and alcohol
Natural, unprocessed foods are usually high in carbohydrates or fat, but not both. However, UPFs often have disproportionately high levels of both fat and carbohydrates. Eating UPF causes a surge of dopamine, followed by a sudden drop in neurotransmitters. The result is a cycle of craving, gratification, and crash similar to drugs and alcohol, but not everyone is susceptible.
“Addictive products are not addictive to everyone,” van Tureken said. “Nearly 90% of people try alcohol without developing a problematic relationship. Many can try tobacco or even cocaine.”
Previous research has also shown that sweet and fatty foods can make healthier alternatives less appealing and can lead to negative health effects such as overeating and weight gain. However, the prevalence of processed foods in modern diets has made it difficult for many people to avoid UPF. As a result, the addictive nature of UPF has led some health-conscious researchers to recommend that many foods should carry warnings similar to those on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“Trying to quit UPF now is like trying to quit smoking in the 1960s,” Van Tureken said.
Fortunately, most substances are safe when used in moderation, and leading online medical resource Healthline recommend Processed foods only make up 10% to 20% of the calories in a person’s diet. To achieve that goal, van Tureken suggests choosing your food carefully.
“Ask yourself, is this really food? You can quickly go from addiction to disgust,” he said.