People frequently say they’re “addicted” to food, but Dr. Nicole Avena of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai recently published a study in PLOS One journal, the Public Library of Science, that suggests some foods are more addictive than others.
In a study of 504 participants, Avena asked which foods cause the most problems in their life using the Yale Food Addiction Scale.
“Several studies really do suggest that highly-palatable, highly-processed foods can produce behaviors and changes in the brain that one would use to diagnose an addiction, like drugs and alcohol,” Avena told The Huffington Post.
Upon asking participants to identify the foods that made them agree with sentences like, "I eat to the point where I feel physically ill” or "I spend a lot of time feeling sluggish or fatigued from overeating,” Avena found behaviors and attitudes associated with certain foods mimicked addiction patterns.
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Pizza, chocolate, chips and cookies were the worst offenders, but food addiction isn’t officially recognized. Avena has been researching food addiction for over 15 years and she hopes her work can help the next generation of research on obesity and eating disorders.
"This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment,” said Avena in a statement. "It may not be a simple matter of 'cutting back' on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”
This is the first study of its kind. "If someone feels they are addicted to food, there really is no diagnosis a medical doctor could give to that person,” Avena said. "This study is helping advance the literature so that we can help people who have addictive-like eating disorders.”