Processed Foods are the Most Addictive

Have you ever had the feeling that you would kill for a piece of chocolate? Or have thought of a juicy burger for days in a row, while any other food seemed much less appealing, even when you were hungry? Well, I sure have. I almost felt like being addicted to one food or another, craving for them at various types. And when I finally gave in to my cravings, I told myself that it’s just what my body needs – otherwise it wouldn’t have sent me these signals in the first place.

The Science of Addictive Processed Foods

A report published this year by a group of Colorado State University suggests otherwise. According to the paper titled “Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load”, processed foods – the ones that usually come with added sugar – have effects similar to drugs of abuse on our bodies, causing us to overeat them.

Pizza - one of the most heavily processed foods ever

The study conducted by the researchers had two phases. In the first one 120 undergraduates from the University of Michigan and about 400 adults were asked to evaluate which foods from a list of 35 (including every category from pizza to broccoli) do they consider that they could consume in an addictive-like manner. 18 of the 35 items on the list were processed foods, meaning that they underwent serious transformation and contained either added sugars or fats. The results might not sound surprising at all: the list was topped by heavily processed foods – like pizza, chocolate and French fries, among others – followed by the likes of cheese or bacon, which are unprocessed, but contain a high dose of salt and fat. Fruit and vegetables were at the bottom of the list.

The researchers have reached the conclusion that the foods with the highest potential to become addictive were those with a high sugar content (high glycemic load) which caused a spike in blood sugar levels. These qualities of the foods make it harder to stop eating them, the authors wrote, similar to the drugs that are concentrated and quickly absorbed by the body.

What is food addiction?

Food addiction is not something you should take lightly. Its symptoms are similar to those of drug addiction – those addicted need a higher dose for the same effect, and if they don’t get their “fix”, they experience symptoms like anxiety or agitation.

The study conducted by the University of Michigan has reached the conclusion that highly processed foods share some of their characteristics with drugs of abuse – high dose, rapid absorption into the body – and these are the exact same foods that are usually associated with food addiction.

For more details and the complete text of the study click here.

Istvan Liptak

Istvan is a self-made health and fitness enthusiast, as well as an amateur cook with a professional diploma. He only practices cooking at home, but this doesn't break his enthusiasm for healthy eating.

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3 Responses

  1. November 19, 2015

    […] a recent study claims that heavily processed foods are addictive, which is another argument against these types of […]

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    […] and bread – things I’ve eliminated from my diet a long time ago – they are heavily processed, after all, which makes them far from being the ideal snack or […]

  3. December 3, 2015

    […] for the love of Mike, avoid heavily processed foods – not only are they addictive, they usually come with extreme quantities of the […]

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