A new analy­sis from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and Vir­ginia Tech shows that addic­tion to ultra-processed foods meets the cri­te­ria for tobac­co addic­tion.

Can ultra-processed foods be addic­tive? This is a ques­tion that researchers have been dis­cussing for years. To find the answer, the sci­en­tists looked at the cri­te­ria for evi­dence that tobac­co is addic­tive and applied them to food.

Accord­ing to the cri­te­ria for­mu­lat­ed for tobac­co addic­tion, the results show that ultra-processed foods have the abil­i­ty to cre­ate addic­tion to foods such as pota­to chips, cook­ies, ice cream, and french fries and oth­er foods rich in refined fats and fast car­bo­hy­drates.

In evi­dence, the sci­en­tists includ­ed the fol­low­ing facts about ultra-processed foods: “They cause com­pul­sive use, where peo­ple are unable to reduce their con­sump­tion even in the face of life-threat­en­ing dis­eases such as dia­betes and heart dis­ease. They can change how we feel and cause brain changes com­pa­ra­ble in mag­ni­tude to nico­tine in tobac­co prod­ucts. They cause a strong desire to eat them regard­less of hunger.

High­ly processed food quick­ly deliv­ers extreme­ly high dos­es of refined fats and car­bo­hy­drates, which caus­es the body to become addict­ed. “It’s time to stop think­ing of high­ly processed foods as just food and start think­ing of them as high­ly refined sub­stances that can be addic­tive,” the sci­en­tists said.

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