Chips, ice cream and the like are addictive, as strong as cocaine

It’s desire or the desire for chips etc. has it already become a real addiction? According to US researchers, this would be entirely possible.

Pexels/Tim Samuel


New analysisChips, ice cream and the like are as addictive as cocaine

Just can’t resist chips and ice cream? No wonder: a new study has now found that they are said to be as addictive as hard drugs.

Malin Mueller

More than one in ten people are addicted. And not from hard drugs, alcohol or video games, but from highly processed foods (ultra-processed foods or UPFs). This was discovered by an analysis that examined 286 studies from 36 countries.

Never heard of UPF? You’ve probably already eaten them: industrially processed sausages, crisps, ice cream, biscuits, sugary breakfast cereals… It’s long been known that once you start eating them it’s difficult to stop. The drug-like addictive effect is now proven.

Ice cream is delicious, but you should enjoy it in moderation.

Ice cream is delicious, but you should enjoy it in moderation.

Pexels/Anthony Rahayel

Thanks, among other things, to Ashley Gearhardt, professor at the University of Michigan. She conducted the research after developing a food addiction scale. She used the same criteria as the medical diagnosis of drug addiction: uncontrollable, excessive use, cravings, and the fact that you don’t stop using even though you know it’s not good for you. After all, various studies have linked UPFs to diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, and even cancer.

These are the results

After evaluating the studies, Gearhardt arrives at a theory about insatiable appetite: “The combination of refined carbohydrates and fats, which are often found in UPFs, appears to have a particularly strong effect on the reward center in the brain – much higher than that substance consumed individually. This could increase the potential for addiction.” The additives contained could further increase this effect.

When consumed in excess, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid highly processed foods.

When consumed in excess, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid highly processed foods.

Pexels/Jonathan Borba

And something else has been proven: UPFs transport carbohydrates and fats particularly quickly into the stomach and make them available there. Drugs such as cocaine have previously been found to have greater addictive potential the faster they act. After all, heavily processed food first causes pleasure, then a quick dopamine rush – and a short time later a crash before it all starts again.

Who is at risk?

As with other drugs, not all users are at the same risk of becoming addicted. “Addictive products do not immediately trigger an addiction in everyone,” says Chris van Tulleken, also an author of the analysis. “Nearly 90% of people can try alcohol without developing problems. Many may try cigarettes or even cocaine.” However, the risk is constantly increasing because people are constantly exposed to highly processed foods. “Wanting to quit smoking today is as difficult as quitting smoking in the 1960s.”

To maintain a healthy diet it is not necessary to completely give up sweets and fast food, but they should remain an exception. According to the Swiss Nutrition Society, a row of chocolate, a scoop of ice cream or three biscuits are not a problem. If you overdo it, you should pay particular attention to a balanced diet in the following days.

How do you manage to eat healthy?

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