LifestyleHow it impacts the brain: the effects of addiction similar to alcohol or cigarettes

How it impacts the brain: the effects of addiction similar to alcohol or cigarettes

Beware of processed food
Beware of processed food

2:24 PM EST, November 24, 2023

An analysis by scientists from Spain, Brazil, and the United States reveals that one in every seven people is addicted to a specific type of food. This study involves participants from 36 different countries worldwide, and the term "addiction" is not used lightly. The findings are concerning.

The troubling data concerning ultra-processed food

Our diets are increasingly filled with products that undergo intensive technological processing. Ready-to-heat microwave meals, packaged dumplings or croquettes, instant noodle soups, and fast food are favorites among many.

Regrettably, recent research from an international team of specialists indicates that a significant part of the population is addicted to ultra-processed food (UPF). Analyzing 281 studies from 36 countries, the research shows this issue affects about 14% of adults and 12% of children.

In terms of adults, the scale of addiction to UPF is comparable to alcohol addiction.

Why do we refer to it as addiction rather than a habit?

The application of the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) enabled researchers to identify the foods most frequently leading to addiction. We're not merely discussing a habit here. Consumption of these foods among addicted individuals connects to neuronal dysfunctions (related to rewards), impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, deteriorating physical and mental health, and a lower quality of life.

What type of food are we talking about?

Products rich in refined carbohydrates and added fats have the highest addiction potential. They stimulate similar brain responses as alcohol and nicotine do, increasing dopamine secretion and leading to neuronal dysfunctions.

Examples of ultra-processed food include salty snacks (like chips, and pretzels), sweets, canned food, packaged meat, ready-made jarred meals, sweet juices, ice-creams and yogurts, and frozen snacks.

The health implications of consuming UPF

Consumption of UPF is not only linked to obesity but also several serious diseases like type II diabetes and circulatory system diseases. Studies show that increased UPF consumption correlates with a heightened risk of developing cancer.

The addiction itself significantly affects the brain, leading to loss of control and the constant need to indulge one's cravings despite the negative consequences.

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