Do Food Additives Make Foods Addictive?

Modern foods contain a combination of added chemicals that may create cravings

(RxWiki News) What makes foods addictive? Why do we crave a candy bar or milkshake and not a steak or an orange?

A new study shows that processed foods can be addictive because the added chemicals trigger the same kinds of brain activity seen in substance dependence.

Brother and sister authors, Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel, suggest that these addictive reactions are most likely the result of the many refined foods, modern packaged foods and unnatural combinations of foods that have been consumed over the last 40 years.

"Unnatural, processed foods may cause food addiction."

“The rise of obesity and other modern diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, high triglycerides and hypoglycemia, to name a few — along with so-called ‘food addiction’— are all the end result of consuming too many of these ‘engineered’ modern foods in our daily diets,” say the Griesels, authors of TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust.

“These modern foods are deliberately designed to stimulate and excite our taste buds and brains. They all contain refined carbohydrates which, after becoming nutritionally neutered via processing, are often produced with refined sweeteners—both real and artificial, fats and problematic trans-fats, unnaturally high amounts of dietary omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable and manufactured oils, salt, a cornucopia of artificial chemicals, dyes and additives that make these packaged items lethal to our health and addictive to many,” Tom Griesel says.

Refined and processed foods are hazardous to our health, particularly to those who have increased sensitivity to them, the Griesels conclude.

The answer? When the sweet tooth strikes, reach for something with no wrapper - a whole food, a piece of fruit of sweet vegetable like a carrot.

In Depth

  • A research team led by Ashley Gerhardt, M.S., MPhil., of Yale University found links between food addiction symptoms and neural activation in 48 young women ranging from lean to obese. Investigators suggest that addictive processes may be involved in the development of obesity.
  • “Based on numerous parallels in neural functioning associated with substance abuse and obesity, theorists have proposed that addictive processes may be involved in the etiology of obesity,” write the researchers.
  • The new study that will appear in the August 2011 print issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
Review Date: 
April 12, 2011