20 of the most addictive foods (Surprise: None of them are good for you)

On any given day – may it be good, bad, tiring, exciting or uneventful – we always look forward to eating some good food. Because of how badly we crave and depend on food, some experts say it can even be considered an addiction.

A team of researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan created a study that focused on some of the most addictive foods, with pizza topping the list, unsurprisingly. They teamed up with the New York Obesity Research Center at the Mount Sinai – St. Luke’s Hospital to better understand what foods trigger an addictive response in some people.

“Food addicts” display similar brain patterns to drug addicts

Like other types of addiction, there are key indicators that characterize food addiction. These are:

  • Loss of control over consumption – People with food addiction tend to overeat and indulge in more servings than necessary whether or not they are hungry.
  • Continued use despite negative consequence – There are foods that we have to avoid because they’re simply not good for our health. However, those with food addiction can’t say NO even if it means putting their health at risk.
  • Inability to cut down – We constantly desire to live well and eat healthily, only to give up instantly when our favorite food is served. People with food addiction go through the same dilemma; they simply can’t resist taking and eating more.

In neuro-imaging studies, “food addicts” and drug addicts showed a striking similarity in their brain patterns: Food addiction showed an increased activation of the reward regions of the brain in response to food cues, much like other types of addiction. With this direct connection to the brain, the researchers posited that the foods on their list may trigger an addictive response, which leads to overeating.

Human studies have yet to determine which foods are most likely to trigger addiction, and the University of Michigan study aimed to know and better understand this. The two-part study published in PLOS ONE involved surveying 120 undergraduate students and conducting a questionnaire among 384 other participants.

For the first part, participants aged between 18 and 23 were first shown the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS). YFAS is a measure developed to determine who are most likely to exhibit markers of substance dependence in consuming high-fat and high-sugar foods. The scale is most often used as a standard criterion for substance dependence.

The participants were then presented with food pairings and were asked to choose which among the pairs were likely to cause them “problems” as described by YFAS. The findings showed that of the 35 food options presented, high-processed foods, which contain more fat and higher glycemic load, were most likely to be associated with addictive-like eating behaviors.

The second part of the study presented a more diverse sampling, involving participants aged between 18 to 64. They were asked to rate each of the 35 foods on the Likert scale, a psychometric scale where responders choose their level of agreement and disagreement in a particular statement. (Read: TOXIC FOOD is killing humanity: One-fifth of global deaths now linked to processed junk food and toxic ingredients.)

In this study, the participants were given the freedom to rate each food from 1 to 7, with 7 being the “most problematic” or “most addictive.”

Top 20 most addictive foods

Although there’s a slight variation between the two studies, the researchers were able to list down the top 20 most addictive foods according to their respondents. Here’s the list of foods from most to least addictive:

  • Pizza
  • Chocolate
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • French fries
  • Cheeseburger
  • Non-diet soda
  • Cake
  • Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Fried chicken
  • Rolls
  • Buttered popcorn
  • Cereal
  • Gummies
  • Steak
  • Muffins
  • Nuts
  • Eggs

Although the study seems to show a better understanding of food addiction, there are still a few more factors to take into consideration. Neuropsychologist Dr. Diane Robinson, Ph.D. concluded that there is an emotional aspect we have to consider when it comes to food. She notes that even at a very early age, we become emotionally attached to food: There are foods that comfort us in bad mood, or make us feel rewarded for good behavior. The study suggests that these foods trigger a certain response that may lead to overeating.

Too much of something is never good. Find out more about addiction and its causes at Addiction.news.

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