Scientists from the University of Michigan found that people with a parent with a history of alcohol problems are at greater risk for showing signs of addiction to highly processed foods.
These foods, such as ice cream, chocolate, pizza, and fries, contain unnaturally high amounts of refined carbohydrates and fats that may trigger an addictive response in some people.
The research is published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and was conducted by Lindzey Hoover et al.
As many as 1 in 5 people seem to show this addiction to highly processed foods, marked by a loss of control over intake, intense cravings, and an inability to cut down despite negative consequences.
In the study, 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.
People who have a family history of addiction may be at greater risk of developing a problematic relationship with highly processed foods.
This is really challenging in a food environment where these foods are cheap, accessible, and heavily marketed.
The team also found addictive responses didn’t end with food, as people with food addiction were also more likely to exhibit personal problems with alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, and vaping, the research showed.
Diets dominated by highly processed food and excessive intake 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.
The team says public health approaches that have reduced the harm of other addictive substances, like restricting marketing to kids, may be important to consider to reduce the negative impact of highly processed foods.
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