Researchers set out to answer this very question in a recent PLOS One study. The conclusion: Many highly processed foods do, in fact, share similar characteristics to drugs like heroin and cocaine and are associated with food addiction.
Here are the top 13 foods:
- Packaged cookies
- Ice cream
- French fries
- Regular soda
- Fried chicken
Food addiction, also called eating addiction, has yet to be recognized as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the handbook of psychiatric disorders used by mental health professionals. Still, research continues to support the addictive nature of some foods or combinations of foods. For example, sugary, fatty, salty food combos (known as “hyperpalatables”) have been shown to trigger the pleasure centers in the brain in a way identical to drugs and alcohol.
Other similarities between food addiction and substance use disorder include:
• You can develop a tolerance, needing more food to get the same numbing or positive effect.
• You use food to manage emotions, including sadness, anxiety, anger, boredom, loneliness and frustration.
• You experience withdrawal symptoms (headaches, irritability, and loss of concentration) when cutting out certain foods like sugar.
• You have a history of trauma, including physical or sexual abuse.
Food addiction isn’t just a problem for someone struggling with weight issues, though there’s often an overlap between food addiction and feeding and eating disorders like bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia nervosa. It’s also common for someone in recovery from drugs or alcohol to develop a “cross” or “transfer” addiction to foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. And if you’re female and over 35, your risk is even higher. For this reason, more addiction treatment centers have begun offering nutrition programs to clients.
Eating for Recovery
What you put (and don't put) into your body plays a big role in how you'll feel during recovery. At AJ’s House, we provide clients with farm-fresh meals and nutritional counseling. To learn more about our holistic addiction services, call today: 855-221-1717.