Ultra Processed Foods Shown To Be as Addictive as Cocaine in Recent Study

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A recent analysis of 281 studies from 36 countries has revealed that ultra-processed foods (UPFs), including items like potato chips, ice cream, sausages, and sugary cereals, may be just as addictive as substances like cocaine or heroin.

Ultra Processed Foods Addictive Just Like Cocaine

Led by University of Michigan professor Ashley Gearhardt, this study applied the same criteria used to diagnose substance addiction to UPFs, such as uncontrollable consumption, cravings, and continued intake despite potential health risks.

The research found that a shocking 14% of adults across the globe appear to be hooked on UPFs, which have previously been associated with cognitive decline, cancer, psychological distress, and premature death.

The addictive potential of UPFs is believed to be a result of the combination of refined carbohydrates and fats, which seem to stimulate brain reward systems more strongly when compared to either macronutrient alone.

The exact cause of this addiction remains a mystery, with some experts suggesting that it’s not a single ingredient but rather the combination of multiple factors in UPFs that contributes to their addictiveness.

Consumption of ultra-processed foods leads to a cycle of craving, consumption, and crashing, similar to the behavior of individuals addicted to substances like alcohol or drugs.

While these foods are not inherently addictive, additives in them could enhance the caloric effects, according to Gearhardt’s team. However, not everyone is equally susceptible to the addictive qualities of UPFs, and some can consume them in moderation without issues.

Health-conscious scientists are raising concerns about the addictive properties of UPFs, suggesting that some of these foods should carry a “tobacco-style” warning label due to their ubiquity. The study underscores the importance of moderating UPF consumption, with recommendations that no more than 10% to 20% of daily calories should come from processed foods.

To reduce UPF intake, experts advise individuals to ask themselves whether a product qualifies as “real food” or if it may be time to transition from addiction to disgust.

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