A team of researchers recently investigated which foods are the most addictive. It might come as no surprise that those foods which are the most processed are also the ones that people seem to crave the most.

Actually, the study is based on the understanding that some people seem to exhibit the behavior of substance dependence—or maybe even substance abuse—in regards to the foods that they eat. While it has not been “proven” that these processed foods can illicit the same chemical reaction in addiction patients, the belief is that there is certainly a correlation.

“If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” explains University of Michigan psychology doctoral student and lead study author Erica Schulte.
She goes on to say, “This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response. This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”

Similarly, Dr. Nicole Avena of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai agrees, citing that she has also found that behaviors and attitudes surrounding certain kinds of food seem to resemble addiction patterns.

Dr. Avena also notes, “Several studies really do suggest that highly-palatable, highly-processed foods can produce behaviors and changes in the brain that one would use to diagnose an addiction, like drugs and alcohol.”

She goes on to explain that this discovery could help us to understand and adjust the way we think about treatment for things like obesity.