Scientists at the University of Michigan report that highly processed foods, as well as foods with added fat and refined carbohydrates (flour and sugar), such as chocolate, pizza and french fries, can be addictive.
This is because they affect the same reward centers in the brain, much like drugs do. Experts speculate that these foods may even change the brains of those who become addicted to them.
Although processed foods tend to be delicious, they can cause eating behavior changes and addiction, the researchers say.
In turn, unprocessed foods with no added fat or refined carbohydrates, such as brown rice and salmon, do not change people’s eating behavior. People who develop this addiction are usually overweight and hypersensitive to processed foods.
Scientists hope their discovery will help change the way obesity is treated. In the future, the researchers plan to find out if food addicts can cause changes in the brain and behavior of people, as real drugs do.