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article imageHighly processed foods are linked to addictive eating

By Tim Sandle     Feb 24, 2015 in Health
New research confirms what most people know: highly processed foods, including certain types of chocolate, pizza, burgers and French fries are among the most addictive and trigger an inclination to overeat.
The research set out to identify the types of foods linked to the physical and psychological condition of "food addiction." Unsurprisingly there is a correlation between addiction to food and weight gain; however, it is thought that some types of food are more addictive and this is a causative factor for the so-termed “obesity epidemic” said to afflict many western societies.
Drawing on earlier animal studies, which showed that highly processed foods trigger addictive behaviour, the researchers began gathering data from people. Highly processed foods, as defined by the researchers, are foods with added fat or refined carbohydrates (for example, white flour and sugar).
The research found that foods that are deemed “unprocessed,” like brown rice and salmon, do not trigger any addictive tendencies in those who consume them. Whereas those who eat processed food regularly had a tendency to want to eat such food on a regular basis. The researchers concluded that some people, who consume highly processed foods, meet the criteria for substance dependence. Rather than narcotics, the substance is food.
The research errs on the side of a psychological addiction, arguing that the consumption of processed food stimulates parts of the brain associated with “reward.” The implication of this is that tackling obesity should focus on treating addiction rather than on simple weight loss programs.
In terms of the physiological effects on people who eat processed food regularly, these people tended to have higher body mass indexes than the general population.
The research was carried out by food technologists working at the University of Michigan. The research output has been published in the journal PLOS One, with the paper headed “Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load.”
More about processed food, Pizza, Child obesity, Addiction, Obesity
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