New study uncovers how your breakfast cereals, biscuits & chicken nuggets are provoking your food cravings. Here’s all you need to know. | Health and Wellness News

by Rajesh Kaur

Why Can’t You Stay Off That Luscious Chocolate? You Might Be a Food Addict

Do you find yourself eating that delicious piece of chocolate even when you’re already full? If so, you might be a food addict. Recent research has shown that there is a scale to measure food addiction, similar to the ones used for alcohol and tobacco addiction. This scale tracks factors such as diminished control over intake, cravings, withdrawal, and continued use of certain foods despite negative impacts on the body. Surprisingly, nearly 14 percent of adults and 12 percent of children fall into the category of food addiction.

In addition to this, the study also discovered that nearly a third of people who have undergone bariatric surgery and half of those who have binge eating disorder are addicted to food. The researchers attribute this addiction to ultra-processed foods, which are industrially produced foods containing ingredients that are not commonly found in home kitchens. This includes popular breakfast cereals, biscuits, chicken nuggets, frozen foods like ice cream, candy, and sodas.

But what makes these foods addictive compared to others? It turns out that foods high in refined carbohydrates and fats trigger a dopamine response in the brain, just like any other addictive substance. However, naturally occurring fruits, vegetables, and nuts rarely contain both high levels of fats and carbohydrates. On the other hand, ultra-processed foods have a balanced ratio of carbohydrates to fats, making them more addictive. For example, a bar of chocolate has a 1:1 carbohydrate to fat ratio, whereas fruits like apples have a carbohydrate to fat ratio of 0.36:1.

So, why do we crave ultra-processed foods? Apart from their different composition compared to natural food substances, ultra-processed foods often contain high levels of added sugars, salts, and other additives for flavor and mouthfeel. These ingredients make the carbohydrates and fats from these foods get absorbed faster by the gut, intensifying their addictive properties. The rapid delivery of substances like nicotine to the brain in smoking is a similar mechanism.

If you find yourself battling food addiction, there are ways to overcome it. Dr. Ambrish Mithal, chairman of endocrinology and diabetes at Max Healthcare, recommends calorie counting as a means to control cravings for ultra-processed food. By tracking and tallying the calories in each piece of chocolate, sweet, or cola, you will quickly realize that you would hit your daily calorie intake target very quickly. Choosing healthier options like a bowl of salad, which adds fewer calories but provides satiety, can help break the addiction to highly processed foods that keep you hungry.

Defining and diagnosing food addiction is crucial for managing treatment protocols for obesity and eating disorders. Additionally, it helps identify cases that may have been previously missed. While an estimated 1 percent of the population has been diagnosed with binge eating disorder, an estimated 14 percent are addicted to ultra-processed foods. Properly quantifying this addiction can lead to further research and development of treatment and clinical management strategies for affected individuals.

Moreover, policy interventions are necessary to address the growing problem of food addiction. The study recommends interventions such as taxing ultra-processed food items and beverages to make them less affordable. Restricting the availability of these products to children can also reduce their exposure and potential addiction. As a society, we need to ensure that healthier food options are more accessible than unhealthy ones. Implementing front-of-pack labels can also provide consumers with important information without explicitly stating that the product is addictive, as its detrimental effects have already been proven to cause lifestyle disorders.

In conclusion, food addiction is a real issue that affects a significant percentage of the population. Ultra-processed foods, with their addictive composition and added ingredients, are major contributors to this addiction. By understanding the nature of food addiction and implementing appropriate measures, we can combat this problem and promote healthier eating habits for everyone.

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