Scientists have named a food that is as addictive as cigarettes

Yulia PoteriankoLife
Deeply processed foods are no longer essentially food

Even people who do not go on diets and do not restrict themselves too much in terms of food are familiar with the feeling when the desire to eat something harmful becomes literally irresistible and occurs even when there is no hunger. It is even sometimes compared to the urge to smoke.

And now scientists have come to the conclusion that highly processed foods can indeed be as addictive and cause the same harm as cigarettes, the Daily Mail reports. The researchers included donuts, sweet cereals, pizza, carbonated drinks, chips, factory sweets, and the like in the list of dangerous foods.

According to the updated data, they affect the brain in such a way that they provoke compulsive consumption and mood changes, and also contain a large amount of unnatural flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners. These properties give them an attractive taste, but these substances also increase the content of calories, fat, sugar and salt in these products, which entails an increase in the risk of developing obesity and other chronic diseases.

The researchers, led by Dr. Ashley Gerhardt, a professor of physiology at the University of Michigan, said that these products are more like drugs because of how far they are from natural foods in terms of taste and texture. "These are industrially produced substances designed to deliver sugar and fat. They are no longer food. These products have been really well designed to deliver substances that are addictive," says Dr. Alexandra Di Felicantoni, professor of health behavior research at Virginia Tech. The team of researchers led by Gerhardt and Di Felicantoni recommends limiting the marketing and advertising of such products to children, as is done with cigarettes.

Scientists attribute the obesity crisis in the United States to the consumption of highly processed foods. According to rough estimates, they make up about 50% of the average American's diet. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 70% of the country's population is overweight, of which 40% are obese.

At the same time, Professor Gerhardt warns that even for people with a healthy weight, consumption of highly processed foods can lead to the development of cancer and other diseases. These products are blamed for the sharp rise in cases of diseases such as colorectal and kidney cancer, as well as Alzheimer's disease in the United States. And the constant increase in blood sugar levels due to the consumption of sweets is responsible for the surge in diabetes.

A recent study published in September links the early development of breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer to highly processed foods. Cases of these diseases have increased worldwide. And Brazilian scientists have linked every fifth premature death in the country to highly processed foods.

Gerhardt and Di Felicantoni applied the standards used to determine that nicotine is addictive to their findings. In 1988, Dr. Charles Everett Koop used three key indicators in a 600-page report to do so: compulsive use (the urge to consume harmful substances even when aware of their harm), mood changes, and reinforcement. Later, a fourth was added: cravings for cigarettes.

Scientists now know that foods high in fat and sugar affect dopamine receptors in the brain, causing addiction. Dr. Gerhardt also suggests that the speed at which the body digests junk food may play a role. In general, researchers agree that the effects of highly processed foods are similar to those of nicotine, alcohol, and drugs.

Processed foods also have a "reinforcement" effect. This means that a person will seek out such foods even when they don't need them, such as when they are hungry or when there is a lack of food available. Dr. Gerhardt describes this as a person buying chocolate ice cream when their refrigerator is full of healthy foods.

People may also crave their favorite junk foods in search of the effects of heavy fats and sugars on the brain, which fits the fourth, later added criterion. Eating these foods can cause serious negative health consequences over time.

Scientists are concerned that manufacturers are now using bright and cheerful characters to advertise such food to children. They also pointed out that several brands of junk food are owned by tobacco companies, which in the 1960s and 1980s marketed their main products to adults, using such images as Joe Camel, a camel depicted as a brutal macho man. This practice was subsequently banned, and cigarette advertising was severely restricted. Gerhardt and Di Felicantoni intend to push for similar restrictions on junk food advertising to children.

As OBOZREVATEL previously reported, scientists have named the most harmful foods that prevent weight loss.

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