Researchers at the University of Michigan have confirmed what has long been suspected: highly processed food like pizza and chocolate can have the same addictive effect on the brain as alcohol and drugs.
The link between food and substance dependent effects in the brain has been indicated by many previous studies, but these researchers were however the first to look specifically at which types of foods that may be involved in food addiction.
A strong association was found between the symptoms of food addiction and highly processed foods, such as pizza and chocolate, while no relationship was found between symptoms of food addiction and unprocessed foods, such as fish or wheat.
Furthermore, individuals with more symptoms of food addiction or with a higher body mass index reported more addictive-like eating behavior, suggesting that some people might be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods. This behavior arises from neurochemical reward centers in the brain, and override normal willpower and hunger control.
The “just say no” approach to drug addiction has not been particularly successful, and this study explains why this strategy is probably not effective for obesity treatment either. The drivers behind obesity may be more psychological than physical, and knowing this may help change public policy and nutritional guidelines in the future.
Read more about the addictive eating study here!