- Research found that 12 percent of children were addicted to ultra-processed foods
Labeling foods such as crisps, chocolate and ice cream as “addictive” could help curb obesity rates, according to a major study.
Researchers compared them to tobacco and alcohol and said the way some people consume products high in carbohydrates and refined fats “meets the criteria for the diagnosis of substance use disorder.”
They estimate that one in seven adults and one in eight children are addicted to ultra-processed foods, which can lead to intense cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and less control over how much they eat. This despite knowing the harmful effects such as obesity and worse physical and mental health.
International researchers analyzed 281 studies from 36 countries and found that about 14 percent of adults and 12 percent of children were addicted to ultra-processed foods.
Researcher Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Virginia, said: “Most foods we consider natural provide energy in the form of carbohydrates or fats, but not both.”
A major review has found that labeling processed foods, such as chips and chocolate, as “addictive” could help curb obesity.
An estimated one in seven adults and one in eight children are addicted to ultra-processed foods, which can lead to intense cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and less control over how much they eat.
‘Many ultra-processed foods have higher levels of both. That combination has a different effect on the brain.’ The rate at which these foods transport carbohydrates and fats to the intestine could also affect their addictive potential.
The study conducted in the United States concluded: “Ultra-processed foods are very rewarding, attractive and are consumed compulsively and can be addictive.”
He added in the BMJ medical journal that more research was needed, but that these items “are clearly consumed in addictive patterns and lead to harmful health outcomes.”
More than half of the average British diet is made up of ultra-processed foods, as opposed to natural foods such as fruit, meat and fish.
Ultra-processed foods, which also include cereals, cakes and yoghurts, make up more than half of the average British diet, in contrast to natural foods such as fruit, meat and fish.
Dr Chris van Tulleken, whose book Ultra-Processed People was serialized in the Mail, supports a warning label system. Last month, at a conference hosted by the healthcare company Randox, he said marketing tools developed by the tobacco industry were now being used by food giants.
“We know that with ultra-processed foods the caloric reward is very fast,” he added. “And once the sugar is in your gut, you get a huge high and that’s what you get addicted to.”