Resisting the urge to eat ice cream might not be your fault, but the ice cream’s
Your struggle to resist the ice cream, chips, and candy may have less to do with your capacity to exercise self-control and more to do with the addictive nature of ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, according to a review of 281 studies from 36 nations that was published in this month’s issue of the British Medical Journal.
To further explore, let’s look at how food is processed and what ultra-processed food is.
Based on Harvard Health, whole foods that have not been processed or have only been lightly treated retain their vitamins and nutritional value. The food is in its natural state, or very close to it. To make these items appropriate for storage and safe to eat, inedible components may be removed; they may be dried, crushed, roasted, boiled, frozen, or pasteurized. Foods that are unprocessed or hardly processed include carrots, apples, raw poultry, melon, and unsalted raw almonds.
A food is altered during processing from its original state. In essence, adding salt, oil, sugar, or other ingredients results in processed meals. Examples include fruits in syrup, freshly baked bread, canned fish and vegetables, and canned fish. Two or three components make up the majority of processed foods.
Foods with high fat, carbohydrate, and sugar content are ultra-processed. Furthermore, they are essentially nutritionally worthless. According to a 2019 article in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, they are “liable to overcompensation.” Ice cream, chips, cheeseburgers, French fries, drinks, cake, candies, and cookies are a few examples of these items.
In the US, ultra-processed foods account for the majority of calories consumed (almost 58%) and over 90% of the energy we get from added sugars, according to research published in The BMJ.
According to a recent study, participants in the ultra-processed diet ingested around 500 more calories daily than those in the unprocessed diet. An increase in carbohydrate and fat intake, but not protein, was seen over the duration of the ultra-processed diet. During the period of the diet with the highest level of processing, participants gained an average of two pounds and lost an average of two pounds. Scientists came to the conclusion that restricting ultra-processed meals could be a successful method for both treating and preventing obesity.
In different research, which was also published in The BMJ, typical eating data from more than 100,000 French people were evaluated over a five-year period. They discovered that people who ate more ultra-processed meals were more likely to have cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases. Even when the researchers took into account the diet’s nutritional quality (taking into account elements like the quantity of saturated fat, salt, sugar, and dietary fiber), these effects remained statistically significant. Large observational studies do not establish causation, but the data does point to a link between heart disease and ultra-processed diets.
Food Addiction: How Sweets are like Drugs
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental illnesses (DSM-5-TR), a manual used by medical practitioners to diagnose mental illnesses, does not list food addiction as a mental condition. However, the survey found that interest in the subject has grown over the past 20 years.
According to a news release from principal author and University of Michigan professor Ashley Gearhardt, “There is converging and consistent support for the validity and clinical relevance of ultra-processed food addiction.” “We may be able to improve global health by acknowledging that some types of processed foods have the addictive properties of addictive substances.”
When you overeat, consume something you don’t want to, or continue to eat something despite the bad repercussions, these are all signs of a food addiction.
Despite the fact that food is not addictive in and of itself, Chris van Tulleken, a doctor and the author of Ultra-Processed People, stated to The Guardian that “UPF is not really food.” The main function of food is to sustain life. The main goals of UPF are financial expansion and profit.
According to Gearhardt, UPFs have altered how our bodies interact with food, particularly how our reward system responds to fats and carbohydrates.
Gearhardt said that “our survival system has gone into hyper-overdrive.”
The study found that eating UPFs causes a spike in dopamine, which makes people feel good; however, as the spike drops, they feel awful and want the wonderful sensation, which leads them to seek out more UPFs.
When we consume alcohol, cigarettes, or other addictive drugs, comparable mechanisms take place in our bodies. While ethanol and nicotine are known to be the addictive components of alcohol and tobacco, researchers are still unsure of exactly what makes UPFs have a comparable impact.
Van Tulleken assured the Guardian that not everyone would become dependent on them.
“Almost 90% of people can try alcohol and not develop a problematic relationship,” he stated.
“Many UPFs for many people are addictive, and when people experience food addiction, it is almost always to UPF products.”