Food and drink
Experts suggest that ultra-processed foods are as addictive as nicotine or cocaine.
Can’t put down that bag of chips? Science says it’s not you, it’s the junk food.
Ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, are as addictive as nicotine, cocaine or heroin, and more than 1 in 10 people are addicted, experts say.
A new analysis of 281 studies across 36 different countries has found that up to 14% of adults are addicted to UPF.
The findings are shocking because the UPF says hot dogs, ice cream, cookies, soft drinks and sugary cereals have previously been linked to cognitive decline, cancer, psychological distress and even premature death.
This analysis was led by University of Michigan professor Ashley Gearhardt, who previously created the Yale Food Addiction Scale by applying the same criteria that experts use to diagnose the condition. substance addiction.
That criteria includes excessive and uncontrolled consumption, cravings, and continuing to eat despite potential negative health effects.
The combination of refined carbohydrates and fats commonly found in UPF appears to have a super-additive effect on the brain’s reward system, more than just Macronutrients alone, may increase the addictive potential of these foods. published in The BMJ.
UPF is addictive for many people, author Chris van Tulleken told The Guardian in an article about the new study. And when people experience food addiction, it’s almost always to products that contain UPF.
But exactly why remains largely a mystery to experts, some of whom believe it may not be a single ingredient that makes candy or cookies so addictive, unlike the nicotine in tobacco but due to contraindications of many types.
Natural foods tend to be higher in carbohydrates or higher in fat, but not high in both, while UPF is disproportionately higher in both.
If an apple has 55 kcal from carbs and less than 2 kcal from fat, a chocolate bar has 237 kcal from carbs and 266 kcal from fat.
Previous research has also found that sugary or fatty foods make healthier alternatives less appealing, and that rewiring the brain can have health-related consequences, such as overeating and weight gain.
Eating processed foods triggers a spike in dopamine, followed by a sudden drop, leading to an endless cycle of cravings, cravings, and crashes similar to that of an alcoholic or drug addict. .
The Gearhardts noted in their study that although they themselves are not addictive, food additives can be caloric effect enhancers.
But not everyone is susceptible to the addictive effects of processed foods, some people can eat a few fries and be satisfied, while others may not be so lucky.
Addictive products are not addictive for everyone, Van Tulleken said. Nearly 90% of people can try alcohol and not develop a troubled relationship; many people may try cigarettes, or even cocaine.
However, the addictive properties of UPF have caused an outcry from health-conscious scientists, who believe that after all, some foods should have the same advice as cigarettes, There’s no escaping ultra-processed foods, they’re everywhere.
Trying to quit UPF now is like trying to quit smoking in the 1960s, Van Tulleken said.
Besides that, most things in moderation are safe. Healthline recommends that no more than 10% to 20% of calories come from processed foods.
To minimize UPF intake, van Tulleken takes a straightforward approach: Ask yourself: is this really food? You can quickly go from addiction to disgust.
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