A new study has found that children with a history of alcohol problems in a parent are at greater risk of showing signs of addiction to highly processed foods.
The study was published in the journal, Psychology of addictive behaviors.
Highly processed foods such as ice cream, chocolate, pizza and french fries contain abnormally high amounts of refined carbohydrates and fats which can trigger an addictive response in some people.
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The UM researchers wanted to know if a major risk factor for addiction – a parent with alcohol problems – predicted an increased risk of addiction to highly processed foods.
As many as 1 in 5 people appear to show this clinically significant addiction to highly processed foods, marked by loss of control over intake, intense cravings and an inability to cut back despite the negative consequences.
“People who have a family history of addiction may be at higher risk for developing a problematic relationship with highly processed foods, which is really difficult in a food environment where these foods are cheap, accessible and heavily marketed,” said Lindzey Hoover, UM Psychology. graduate student and lead author of the study.
But the addictive responses didn’t stop at food, as people with food addiction were also more likely to have personal problems with alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and vaping, the research found.
Diets dominated by highly processed foods and excessive consumption of addictive substances are leading causes of preventable death in the modern world. This study suggests that interventions are needed to simultaneously reduce addictive eating and substance use.
“Public health approaches that have reduced the harms of other addictive substances, such as restricting marketing to children, may be important to consider in reducing the negative impact of highly processed foods,” Hoover said.
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