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Why are some foods addictive?

New Zealand scientists have shown compulsive food consumption has a similar impact on the brain as drug dependence. Heavily processed carbohydrates have the most potential to cause addiction, according to the research.

The addictive foods research

The researchers found that foods with a high Glycemic Index (GI) caused blood-sugar levels to increase quickly. The sugar rush stimulates the same areas of the brain associated with addiction to nicotine and other drugs.

They said people who binged on high carb foods experienced symptoms of addiction. These included; loss of control, a compulsion to keep taking greater amounts to get the same feeling, and withdrawal symptoms from going cold turkey.

People with a higher body mass index (BMI) had fewer brain pleasure receptors, similar to those addicted to cocaine and alcohol.

What the researchers suggest

Lead researcher Dr Thornley from the University of Auckland suggests eating low GI foods. Low-GI foods produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and a feeling of contentment and satisfaction.

He said, “Just as slow release forms of nicotine help smokers recover from addiction, low GI foods may reduce cravings in obese or overweight populations.”

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