What are the most addictive foods, according to science

Slices of pizza
Pizza is considered one of the most addictive foods in the world. Credit: Pixabay.

Have you ever wondered why certain foods have an irresistible hold on our taste buds? What is it about that slice of chocolate cake or those crunchy potato chips that keep us coming back for more?

While every person has their own comfort food, that’s not what “food addiction” refers to. In fact, food addiction is a pretty thorny topic among scientists, as you’ll see.

However, there are some foods that have earned a reputation for their undeniable hold on our senses. A University of Michigan study actually did the research and ranked the most addictive foods, but also the least addictive ones.

The most addictive foods. Who can resist chocolate and pizza?

The researchers surveyed hundreds of people based on the Yale Food Addiction Scale. The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) is a widely recognized tool used to assess the presence and severity of food-related addictive behaviors.

Developed by Dr. Ashley N. Gearhardt and her colleagues at Yale University, the scale is designed to measure the extent to which people experience food addiction symptoms. It consists of over two dozen questions intended to assess the severity of addictive eating behavior.

For example, researchers asked participants to count the number of times they agreed with statements such as “I eat to the point where I feel physically unwell or” I spend a lot of time feeling sluggish or fatigued from overeating. food.

The researchers conducted two separate studies. In the first study, the authors surveyed 120 undergraduate students who were recruited from on-campus flyers or through the University of Michigan’s Introductory Psychology Subject Pool. Students received financial compensation or study credit for their time.

The second study was conducted online and involved nearly 400 participants recruited using Amazons Mechanical Turk (MTurk) worker pool.

chocolate
Credit: Pixabay.

According to the first study, chocolate is the most addictive food. More than one in four people have an addictive relationship with chocolate. Ice cream, fries and pizza rounded out the list, which wasn’t surprising at all.

But there were also some surprises: Breakfast cereal was more addictive than soda or fried chicken. Water was considered more problematic than cucumbers or beans.

Rank Food Frequency elaborate?
1 Chocolate 27.60 Y
2 Ice-cream 27.02 Y
3 French fries 26.94 Y
4 Pizza 26.73 Y
5 Cookie 26.72 Y
6 French fries 25.38 Y
7 Cake 24.84 Y
8 Popcorn (with butter) 23.39 Y
9 Cheeseburger 21.26 Y
10 Muffin 20.81 Y
11 Breakfast cereals 20.61 Y
12 Gummy candies 20.58 Y
13 Fried chicken 20.18 Y
14 soda (non-diet) 20.07 Y
15 Sandwiches (plain) 20.01 Y
16 Cheese 19.36 No
17 pretzels 19.20 Y
18 Bacon 18.05 No
19 Crackers (plain) 16.88 Y
20 Peanuts 16.43 No
21 Steak 16.16 No
22 Granola Bar 14.39 Y
23 Egg 13.93 No
24 Chicken breast 12.61 No
25 Strawberries 12.42 No
26 Apple 10.21 No
27 Corn (without butter or salt) 9.92 No
28 Salmon 9.44 No
29 Banana 9.34 No
30 Carrots (plain) 9.08 No
31 Brown Rice (Plain, No Gravy) 8.79 No
32 Waterfall 6.91 No
33 Cucumber (without sauce) 6.83 No
34 Broccoli 6.48 No
35 Beans (No Sauce) 6.47 No
Most addictive foods ranked by first University of Michigan study.

“As hypothesized, highly processed foods (with added fats and/or refined carbohydrates) appeared to be more associated with behavioral indicators of addictive-like eating,” the study writes.

For the second study, the top rankings were reversed. The most addicting food was pizza, with chocolate making do with the latter. Chips, cookies and ice cream come next. Breakfast cereals dropped significantly, and the least addictive food was cucumber.

Rank Food Average rating elaborate?
1 Pizza 4.01 Y
2 Chocolate 3.73 Y
2 French fries 3.73 Y
4 Cookie 3.71 Y
5 Ice-cream 3.68 Y
6 French fries 3.60 Y
7 Cheeseburger 3.51 Y
8 soda (non-diet) 3.29 Y
9 Cake 3.26 Y
10 Cheese 3.22 No
11 Bacon 3.03 No
12 Fried chicken 2.97 Y
13 Sandwiches (plain) 2.73 Y
14 Popcorn (with butter) 2.64 Y
15 Breakfast cereals 2.59 Y
16 Gummy candies 2.57 Y
17 Steak 2.54 No
18 Muffin 2.50 Y
19 Peanuts 2.47 No
20 Egg 2.18 No
21 Chicken breast 2.16 No
22 pretzels 2.13 Y
23 Crackers (plain) 2.07 Y
24 Waterfall 1.94 No
25 Granola Bar 1.93 Y
26 Strawberries 1.88 No
27 Corn (without butter or salt) 1.87 No
28 Salmon 1.84 No
29 Banana 1.77 No
30 Broccoli 1.74 No
30 Brown Rice (Plain, No Gravy) 1.74 No
32 Apple 1.66 No
33 Beans (No Sauce) 1.63 No
34 Carrots 1.60 No
35 Cucumber (without sauce) 1.53 No
The most addictive foods according to the second University of Michigan study.

“In summary, the current study found that highly processed foods, with added amounts of refined fats and/or carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, white flour), were more likely to be associated with behavioral indicators of addiction-like eating Additionally, foods with a high glycemic index (GL) were particularly related to addiction-like eating problems for people who sustained elevated symptoms of food addiction.

“Individuals who endorse symptoms of addictive-like eating behavior may be more susceptible to the large blood sugar spike of high-GI foods, which is consistent with the importance of dose and absorption rate in the potential for addiction to drugs of abuse,” concludes the study.

Is food addiction a real thing?

man holding ice cream
Credit: Pixabay.

Food addiction is quite controversial in the scientific community. At first glance, the idea of ​​food addiction is ludicrous because we need the calories and other nutrients found in food to survive. However, the concept of food addiction isn’t as crazy as it might seem.

Research suggests that some people are more likely than others to seek out palatable foods—foods high in fat and sugar that humans naturally find tasty—even when this behavior leads to negative consequences.

Addiction is traditionally associated with substances such as drugs or alcohol. Addiction is characterized by compulsive behavior, loss of control, and negative consequences when not having access to the object of addiction (i.e., withdrawal symptoms). It involves the brain’s reward system and neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, which play a vital role in reinforcing pleasurable experiences.

There is no consensus on the definition of “food addiction” among scientists. THE Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)the so-called “psychiatry bible” which lists all psychiatric disorders, does not mention food addiction as a condition.

But while food addiction is not yet formally recognized, the Yale Food Addiction Scale is based on the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders outlined in the DSM-5, adapted to the context of food.

Some scientists have even gone so far as to argue that sugar is just as addictive as hard drugs like cocaine and opium.

Sugar consumption produces cocaine-like effects, altering mood, perhaps through its ability to induce gratification and pleasure, leading to sugar cravings, wrote cardiovascular research scientist James J DiNicolantonio and cardiologist James H OKeefe , both from Saint Lukes Mid America. Heart Institute in Kansas in a review published in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The research cited by these scientists is all based on studies on rats. These studies have found that rodents prefer sugar to cocaine, as well as evidence of sugar withdrawal.

However, these kinds of conclusions are grossly flawed and are just bad science. Most animals will prefer sweet things to cocaine, and anxious behavior in rodents after eating sugar is by no means a clear indication of addiction-related withdrawal.

Other studies have found parallels between the effects of cocaine and sugar on the brain. In fact, both food and drugs like cocaine act on much the same reward system in the brain. However, pharmacologically speaking the two are not the same, nor are their effects. Drugs of abuse hijack the reward system and disable their normal controls.

Turning food cravings into a habit is not the same as being addicted to cocaine or heroin. I don’t think there is a person in history who has robbed a convenience store to get a sugar fix. Any sane person is aware of this.

But putting these exaggerated claims aside, there is indeed evidence to suggest that sugar and processed foods have some addictive properties. Certain highly palatable foods light up the pleasure center in the brain and trigger a rush of dopamine.

In individuals more prone to addiction, these chemicals can overwhelm other brain signals that convey feelings of fullness or satisfaction, resulting in a cycle of overeating.

Over time, these individuals may develop a tolerance to addictive foods, requiring larger amounts to experience the same level of pleasure. Despite recognizing the negative consequences of overeating and wanting to quit, their efforts prove ineffective. In these cases, people often use addiction-related words, such as cravings, withdrawal, and loss of control, to describe their relationship with food.

Many times, addictive eating behaviors are sometimes used as a means of coping with stress and emotions. While more research is needed, there is evidence that many people experience addiction-like eating patterns, which can negatively impact their health, self-esteem, and overall quality of life.

And while food addiction isn’t as obvious as hard drug abuse, it can also kill.

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than two in five American adults are obese and nearly one in five children are obese. While it may not directly cause death, obesity substantially increases the likelihood of developing various life-threatening conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and liver disease.

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