Ultra-processed foods are as addictive and dangerous as cigarettes, warn scientists who are calling for restrictions on the marketing of these products.
- According to the researchers, these processed foods are similar to how nicotine, alcohol and cocaine act on the body.
- Even people with a healthy weight are at risk of developing cancer or other health problems from junk food.
The list of deleterious impacts of processed products is growing. Indeed, while we already knew that consuming too many processed foods (rich in calories, fats, sugar or salt) increases the risk of obesity, heart disease and chronic diseases, or that it can lead to mental disorders; researchers from the University of Michigan point to a new harmful effect of these food products.
Brain: processed products are addictive
According to these experts who speak in the DailyMail, processed foods are addictive and as dangerous as cigarettes. That is why they should be reclassified as drugs.
Researchers claim that products such as cakes, cereals and industrial pizzas, for example, meet the official criteria that established cigarettes as drugs in the 1990s. Like cigarettes, they cause mood changes on the brain since the high sugar and fat content of these foods impact the dopamine receptors in the brain.
Researchers describe this effect as “psychoactive“: a person will have to consume more ultra-processed products to regain it – just like with other drugs. The sugar/fat cocktail causes compulsive use and further reinforces addiction or triggers craving, as in the cocaine and alcohol, say the researchers. These processed foods also have a “reinforcement“, that is, a person can search for these foods even if they do not need them
Ultra-processed foods: children must be protected from their dangers
“Ultra-processed foods are industrially produced substances designed to provide sugar and fat. said Dr. Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, professor of health behavior research at Virginia Tech University. “It’s not food anymore. These are products that have been very well designed to deliver addictive substances“.
The researchers want the marketing of these foods to children to be restricted. They recall that Philip Morris – the largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States, both then and now – bought General Foods, which now owns colorful and popular cereals marketed to children, such as Trix, Lucky Charms and Coco Puffs.