Scientists from the University of Michigan found that highly processed food, such as pizza, is linked to addictive eating behavior.
The addictive potential of certain foods, such as those with high levels of carbohydrates or fat, qualifies food addiction as a substance use disorder.
People who have food addiction report that they are unable to control their consumption of certain foods.
Common symptoms of food addiction include: eating to the point of feeling ill; ending up eating more than planned when you start eating certain foods; worrying about not eating certain types of foods; and keeping eating certain foods even if you’re no longer hungry.
In the current study, researchers predicted that highly processed foods share properties (e.g. concentrated dose, rapid rate of absorption) with drugs of abuse.
They examined 120 college students in Study One and 384 students in Study Two.
In Study One, the participants completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale and identified which foods, out of 35 foods varying in nutritional composition, were most linked to addictive-like eating behaviors.
Using the same 35 foods, Study Two examined which food attributes (e.g., fat grams) were related to addictive-like eating behavior.
The researchers found that processed foods, higher in fat and glycemic load, such as pizza, were most frequently linked to addictive-like eating behaviors.
Glycemic load shows how rapidly a specific carbohydrate food raises blood sugar and factors in the actual amount of the particular carbohydrate being consumed.
They also found food processing, such as the addition of fat and refined carbohydrates, was a strong predictor of whether a food was linked to problematic, addictive-like eating behaviors.
Based on the findings, the team suggests that not all foods are equally linked to addictive-like eating behavior.
Highly processed foods, which may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (e.g. high dose, rapid rate of absorption) appear to be particularly associated with “food addiction.”
This is due to the addition of fat and/or refined carbohydrates and the rapid rate the refined carbohydrates are absorbed into the body, shown by the glycemic load.
The current study provided evidence for the foods in addictive-like eating.
The research is published in PLOS ONE and was conducted by Ashley N. Gearhardt et al.
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