Scientific studies show that certain foods affect our brains in the same way as alcohol, nicotine, heroin and cocaine.

When these foods are consumed repeatedly, they can cause an addiction similar to what we often see with alcohol and drugs of abuse. At first, such foods are attractive because they release endorphins and ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters that can temporarily relieve emotional discomfort, anxiety and depression. This is a process similar to drug addiction: the food triggers the reward center of the brain, causing a sense of pleasure. But with frequent consumption of such foods, we can become physically and emotionally addicted.

Highly processed foods, such as sugar and flour, have the greatest impact on our brains because they dramatically raise blood sugar, and they can override normal body mechanisms that tell us we have eaten enough. Sweeteners, grains and dairy show the greatest potential for addiction. The more refined or processed a food is, the more habit-forming it can become. As with any addictive substance, increased amounts are needed over time to satisfy cravings and avoid symptoms of withdrawal.

What is food addiction?