As addictive as tobacco, what foods are we talking about?

Extensive research found that products such as chips, cookies and sugary drinks generate a response in the body similar to tobacco addiction.

January 15, 2023 01:30 a.m.

A groundbreaking study conducted by the University of Michigan (UM) and Virginia Tech using criteria from the analysis that, in 1988, established that tobacco was addictive, found that excessively processed foods can lead to similar levels of dependency.

The study is part of the concern that experts in the area of ​​health have been showing regarding unhealthy diets that are characterized by consisting of foods loaded with refined carbohydrates and added fats.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Virginia Tech took the criteria used in a 1988 US Surgeon General’s report, which established that tobacco was addictive, and applied it to food. In this way, using criteria established for cigarettes, they determined that highly processed products can be just as addictive, revealed lead author Ashley Gearhardt, a UM associate professor of psychology, and Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, an assistant professor at the Institute for Fralin Biomedical Research at Virginia Tech.

The experts considered that the addictive potential of foods such as French fries, certain types of cookies, donuts, ice cream and sugary cereals, for example, is a factor that increases the costs of health services, taking into account that It is about products of mass consumption, because they are usually cheap and accessible.

In the study, published in the current issue of Addiction, the authors offered a series of guidelines by which they considered that these foods meet a series of factors that evidence that they have addictive qualities.

  • They trigger compulsive use when people can’t quit smoking or cut back on those foods (even in the face of life-threatening conditions like diabetes and heart disease)
  • They can change the way we feel and cause changes in the brain of a magnitude similar to the nicotine in tobacco products.
  • they are very reinforcing
  • Trigger intense urges and cravings
  • Ultra-processed foods, which also include soft drinks, cakes, and candy, contain large amounts of unnatural flavorings, preservatives, and sweeteners. These properties give them a taste that is delicious to most people, but also make them high in calories, fat, sugar or salt, increasing the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.
Its effects are similar to those of smoking tobacco. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

“Notably, there is no biomarker in the brain that tells us if something is addictive or not,” Gearhardt said. “Identifying that tobacco products were addictive really came down to these four criteria, (which) have withstood decades of scientific evaluation. Highly processed foods meet each and every one of these criteria,” she stressed.
DiFeliceantonio said, in turn, that “the ability of highly processed foods to rapidly deliver abnormally high doses of refined carbohydrates and fat seems key to their addictive potential.” “They are industrially produced substances designed to supply sugar and fat,” he pointed out.

While Gearhardt added that “highly processed foods contain complex substances that cannot be simplified to a single chemical agent that acts through a specific central mechanism. The same can be said of industrial tobacco products, which contain thousands of chemicals, including nicotine.

As an example of the damage caused by this type of food, a study carried out in 2019 in Brazil and whose results were published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated that around 57,000 Brazilians, between the ages of 30 and 69, died that year as a result. consumption of ultra-processed foods. The figure equates to more than 10% of the country’s annual premature deaths among that age group, according to the researchers.

For the work, the specialists used calculations from a previous analysis, which compared the relative risk of mortality of people who ate large amounts of processed foods with those who ate relatively little. The authors applied this model to the population of Brazil and the level of consumption of ultra-processed foods, and estimated the number of premature deaths that could have been avoided if these population groups had adopted a healthier diet.

Similarly, in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists followed approximately 74,000 people between the ages of 30 and 75 for more than two decades. During that time, they analyzed their diets and lifestyle habits and tracked changes in what they ate. The researchers used several scoring systems to assess the quality of their diets, including the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, which was developed by nutrition experts at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

The index gives low scores to unhealthy foods and higher scores to healthier foods. Foods that received high scores included fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and foods high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, avocados, and olive oil. . Some of the unhealthy foods that received lower scores were things like red and processed meats and foods high in sodium and added sugars, such as sugary drinks, pizza, French fries and other junk foods.

The more nutritious foods people ate and the less junk food they consumed, the higher their diet scores. The researchers found that people who had consistently high diet scores were up to 14% less likely to die from any cause during the study period compared to people who had consistently poor diets.

With information from infobae

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.