Scientists recently identified the most addictive foods in the world. Here we look at the five most addictive, and just why we want to eat them so much.
Have you ever wondered why the foods you know are bad for you are the most tempting? Why does that slice of pizza look better than that salad, or why do you find yourself always ordering the burger instead of the healthier options on the menu?
Studies suggest that these foods are aren’t just tempting because they taste good. Ingredients such as fat and refined carbohydrates promote food addiction because they are absorbed so quickly into the system, delivering a rush of sugar to the system that leaves us wanting more.
One recent University of Michigan study concluded that “highly processed foods, which may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (e.g. high dose, rapid rate of absorption) appear to be particularly associated with ‘food addiction’.”
The authors of the study added: “Addictive substances are rarely in their natural state, but have been altered or processed in a manner that increases their abuse potential. For example, grapes are processed into wine and poppies are refined into opium. A similar process may be occurring within our food supply.”
Basically, processed junk foods effect the “reward” centres in the brain in much the same way as drugs do, leaving us wanting more and inhibiting our ability to say ‘no’.
While there was a certain amount of scepticism towards the idea of food addiction in some quarters up until recently, it is now accepted as a very real problem that may be significantly worse than previously believed. The study found that 92 percent of participants had addictive-like eating behaviour towards certain foods, while 7-10 percent had full-blown food addiction.
Which Foods Are Most Addictive?
According to the study, the top five foods you are most likely to become addicted to are:
No surprise here. Pizza delivers a highly digestible combo of fats and carbohydrates that tastes great with our favourite toppings. On top of all of this we have the casein in the cheese. This protein releases casomorphins that stimulate our opioid receptors, making the pizza even more addictive.
In addiction to high doses of sugar and fat, chocolate contains a number of mood-altering substances that make it extremely ‘morish’. Researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland found that some subjects salivated more when there was chocolate around, and even exhibited anxiety and negative emotions.
Potato chips take large amounts of fat and easily digested carbs and make them a whole lot worse by adding lashings of salt. It has been known for years that salt can be addictive and last year Australian scientists shed some light on the reason why. They found that salt releases natural opioids in the brain, triggering cravings similar to those caused by other addictions such as cigarettes and heroin.
These small disks of deliciousness are packed with addictive ingredients, particularly when bought from the shop shelf. One headline-grabbing study by scientists at Connecticut College a few years back found that Oreos could be more addictive than cocaine. It was even found that the test rats broke the Oreos open to eat the creamy part first. Sound familiar?
5. Ice Cream
A 2012 study of 151 human volunteers by the Oregon Research Institute found that regularly eating ice cream reduces the brain’s pleasurable “reward” response. Basically, the more ice cream you consume, the more you need to eat to experience the same levels of satisfaction. Ice cream delivers a dose of sugars and fats that leave us wanting more, not to mention the fact that it’s delicious on a summer’s day.
These foods were followed by: French Fries, Cheeseburgers, Soda (non-diet), Cake, Cheese, Bacon, Fried chicken, Rolls (plain), Popcorn (buttered), Breakfast Cereal, Gummy candy, Steak, and Muffins.
Signs of Compulsive Eating
While none of the above foods can be described as healthy, there is really little harm in enjoying them from time to time as part of a balanced diet. There is, however, a point where an occasional treat can become a regular and unhealthy habit, often developing into food addiction.
If you think you may have developed food addiction or an unhealthy relationship with certain foods, you should look out for the following signs and symptoms:
- You keep on eating even after you are full
- You need more and more of certain foods in order to feel satisfied
- You find it difficult to stop eating certain foods once you begin
- You consistently eat unhealthy foods even though you know it is having negative effects on your health and wellbeing
- You become preoccupied with obtaining certain foods, or food in general
- You eat when you are upset, or to reward yourself
- You feel guilty or ashamed because of your eating habits
- You hide your food consumption from others
Facing up to Eating Disorders
If you do have a problem with your food consumption, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone. In a world where addictive, processed foods are available on every street corner and every convenience store, it takes no small amount of willpower to resist the almost constant temptation.
Obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and more than 39 per cent of all adults in the world are overweight. Living healthily in this age of plentiful food supplies has presented its own challenges that individuals, governments and health organisations are struggling to deal with.
Thankfully, there is help out there. Many private rehab centres have been working with people who suffer from eating disorders for years and have developed effective food addiction treatment programmes.
If you are struggling with any kind of food addiction, we can help you get the treatment you need in the Asia-Pacific region. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.