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Fast Food Is Addicting

Can a bag of chips trigger addictive behavior like cocaine? Scientific studies in recent years have compared junk food addiction to drug addiction and have come up with startling results. Addiction to junk food works in our brain according to the same mechanisms as, for example, cocaine addiction.

Is fast food a drug?

Shockingly, there’s plenty of data showing that fast food addiction is just as serious as drug addiction. According to this data, high fructose syrup, monosodium glutamate, hydrogenated oils, refined salt and various other chemical additives found in processed junk food have the same brain effects as cocaine.

A 2010 study conducted by scientists at the Scripps Research Institute (SRI) in Florida revealed that rats given free access to various fast food items exhibited significant changes in their brain activity and function and that these changes closely resembled those observed in the brains of drug addicts.

Fast food addiction increases

Another study — this time by researchers from the University of Austin, Texas, and the Oregon Research Institute — found that persistent junk food consumption reduced activity in the striatum (an area of ​​the cerebrum responsible for emotions, and feeling of reward is responsible) leads. In other words, as in the case of illegal drugs, the amount of junk food needed by the addict to feel a “high,” a kind of reward for what he or she is doing, is constantly increasing.

The data are so impressive that they must finally be accepted by this branch of research,
said Nora Vokow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in view of the research results.

It turns out there’s a tremendous overlap in how drugs and foods affect the brain.

Drugs cause dopamine to be released in the brain – the so-called happiness hormone. In a comparative study, scientists discovered a similarity between dopamine production in drug addicts and people addicted to fast food. Basically, addiction to drugs causes the receptors in the brain that respond to dopamine and make the body feel happy to become less sensitive. As a result, addicts require higher and higher doses of the addictive substance to achieve the same level of satisfaction. Exactly the same mechanisms are at work in the brain of a person addicted to fast food.

Searches for chemical additives

In general, since processed foods are full of synthetic chemical additives, they can also be considered drugs in a broader sense. It is therefore no wonder that millions of people worldwide are addicted to these products.

Fast food addiction and obesity

The addiction described is apparently also connected to obesity, which is widespread today. The researchers were able to show that obese people tend to have less sensitive dopamine receptors than people of normal weight. Obese people need to eat more to satisfy their addiction to fast food. These mechanisms in the brain can end up in a vicious circle that can lead to serious health problems.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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