Highly Processed Foods Could Be Addictive As Tobacco, Study Says

You might have heard the notion that processed foods are unhealthy, but that should not be your only concern, as a new study shows that they are as addictive as tobacco.

Highly processed foods are addictive. 

Most foods are processed to some level, but highly processed foods (HPF) are among the foods one should be concerned about. Usually, HPFs are considered convenient are very palatable, but they contain considerably high amounts of additives like sugar, saturated fat and sodium. Examples of such foods include instant soups, sugary drinks, meat products like hot dogs, boxed pasta products, and sweetened breakfast cereals.

It is said that these foods are specifically designed so that people can crave more and overeat them. This raises the question of whether they can be said to be addictive. 

In the new study, researchers analyzed HPF and if they can be considered addictive as per the scientific criteria on tobacco addictiveness. For example, the 1988 Surgeon General’s addictiveness criteria indicated that the product has compulsive or controlled use where the consumer finds it challenging to quit, there is reinforced behaviour, has a psychoactive effect on the brain, and strong cravings or urges triggered.  

The University of Michigan noted that the four criteria were used to determine that tobacco was addictive in 1988. The researchers used the same standards in the study of HPF and established that they could be addictive too. 

HPFs meet every condition of the addictiveness criteria 

Lead study author Ashley Gearhardt said to determine that tobacco was addictive, it was down to the four criteria, and HPFs meet each of these conditions. Researchers indicate that HPF’s potential to be addictive could be a major factor in the high public health costs. 

According to researchers poor diets due to HPF could be contributing to preventable deaths. The study added that understanding the addictive nature of HPFs can lead to treatments that will curb compulsive intake. Researchers concluded that if the evidence supports that these food are both unhealthy and addictive, then it will challenge the notion that excessive consumption of highly processed foods is a matter of choice. 

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