Are cupcakes as addictive as cocaine? How high-sugar processed food can have same effect on the brain as drugs
We all know junk food is bad for us. But could eating too much be making us crave it more?
Scientists in the U.S. have drawn attention to a growing volume of research indicating that products sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup food can be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine.
There have been 28 studies in the past year alone, and experts say the findings are so overwhelming, they can no longer be dismissed.
Triggering cravings? There is a growing volume of research indicating that high-sugar, processed food can be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine
They found that when obese people and compulsive eaters were shown pictures of their favourite foods, a decision-making area of the brain called the orbital frontal cortex experiences a surge of dopamine. The same area is activated when cocaine addicts are shown a bag of white power.
And studies on rats showed that those fed on syrup developed brain and behaviour changes similar to rodents hooked on morphine.
Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse told Bloomberg: 'The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it.
'We are finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.'
The findings are so significant that scientists are already working on drugs that could help binge eaters alter their food preferences.
Mark Gold, of the University of Florida in Gainesville, revealed: 'We are trying to develop treatments that interfere with pathological food preferences.
'Let's say you are addicted to ice cream, you might come up with a treatment that blocked your interest in ice cream, but doesn't affect your interest in meat.'
'The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it. We are
finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the
Industry experts say this knowledge about the effects of processed food on the brain could even 'change the legal landscape'.
Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity explained: 'People knew for a long time cigarettes were killing people, but it was only later they learned about nicotine and the intentional manipulation of it.'
But the major corporations that would be implicated by such lawsuits say that there is nothing wrong with their processed food and drink products if consumed in moderation.
PepsiCo Chief Executive
Officer Indra Nooyi said that in addition to 'fun-for- you' foods, the firm makes plenty of healthy options too.
Richard Adamson, a pharmacologist and consultant for the American Beverage Association added that the suggestion that junk food is as addictive as cocaine or heroine is ridiculous.
'I have never heard of anyone robbing a bank to get money to buy a candy bar or ice cream or pop,' he told Bloomberg.
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