Some ultra-processed foods have ‘properties of addictive substances’
Food addiction is estimated to occur in 14 per cent of adults and 12 per cent of children.
An analysis of 281 studies from 36 different countries published in the British Medical Journal found that “ultra-processed food addiction” was estimated to occur in 14 per cent of adults and 12 per cent of children.
“There is converging and consistent support for the validity and clinical relevance of food addiction,” wrote Ashley Gearhardt, one of the researchers and a psychology professor at the University of Michigan.
“By acknowledging that certain types of processed foods have the properties of addictive substances, we may be able to help improve global health.”
Recent studies have linked ultra-processed foods (UPFs) such as ice-cream, fizzy drinks and ready meals to poor health, including an increased risk of cancer, weight gain and heart disease. Global consumption of the products is soaring and UPFs now make up more than half the average diet in the UK and US.
Now researchers say the way some people consume such foods could “meet the criteria for diagnosis of substance use disorder”.
Behaviours that could meet these criteria include intense cravings, symptoms of withdrawal, less control over intake, and continued use despite such consequences as obesity, binge-eating disorder, poorer physical and mental health, and lower quality of life, they said.