A recent study put out by the University of Michigan and the New York Obesity Research Center shows some striking similarities between junk food and drugs. Two studies were done, one where a group of 120 people were told to choose which foods were most associated with addictive-like eating behaviors and another using “hierarchical linear modeling” to find out which attributes caused these foods to become addictive.
Researchers showed people two photos side-by-side, one of a highly processed or fatty food and the other being a healthy food object, like a fruit or vegetable. The people were then told to choose which food they’d run into more difficulty with giving up or cutting down on eating said food. Most of the foods that were chosen had added amounts of refined carbohydrates which is what contributed to the “addictive” nature. The study found evidence that highly processed foods can be associated with “food addiction”. This is because they share characteristics with drugs such as their rapid rate of absorption and that you get the ingredients in the food in such high doses. The study stated that the next step in the research is the observe eating behaviors with these foods and factor in things like withdrawal and tolerance to find more conclusive evidence.
Evidence for highly processed foods being addictive in one way or another has been found. This could be found useful when it comes to helping solve the obesity problem in America.
“This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response,” said Nicole Avena, the lead author of the study, in a statement, “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.”