While we all know about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, did you know that you could become addicted to your favorite food? From withdrawal symptoms to changes in brain chemistry, our snacks have surprising ways of keeping us wanting more. Here is our guide to five of the world’s most addictive foods.
Many people claim to be chocoholics, but can you really be addicted
to chocolate? The answer is... perhaps. One reason many people feel
"addicted" to chocolate is that the food's chemical compounds (including
theobromine, phenyethylamine, anandamide and tryptophan) actually have
pleasure-inducing effects that can mimic the effects of drugs on the
brain. Chocolate also contains alkaloids (tetrahydro-beta-carbolines)
which are present in alcohol and have been linked to alcoholism.
However, before you go booking yourself into Chocoholics Anonymous,
it is important to note that many researchers have pointed out that the
chemicals in chocolate also exist in other foods which most of us do not
crave. It has also been suggested that the chemicals in chocolate are
not in high enough doses to lead to addiction. Regardless, it is
impossible to deny that chocolate is one of the world's most-craved
foods -- whether this is due to psychological reasons or a physical
From pizzas to cheeseburgers, cheese is a staple of many widely
craved junk foods, but there could be more to our cravings than we
think. Various studies have discovered the presence of opiates --
including the highly addictive morphine -- in the popular dairy product
While the amounts of morphine in cheese are very small and probably
not enough to cause addiction, some researchers have expressed concern
about its levels of casein (the main protein in cheese) which produces
morphine-like opiate compounds called casomorphins during digestion. On
top of this, cheese also contains phenylethylamine, a substance with
stimulant effects which is thought to give consumers a natural "high,"
and which is reputed to have addictive qualities.
We all know that sugar is bad for our health, but according to
numerous studies it can also be addictive. Studies have suggested that
when we eat sugar, chemicals called opioids are released by the brain,
which leads to an intense feeling of pleasure. It is this feeling that
people may crave in the absence of sugar.
A study by psychologists at Princeton University investigated sugar
addiction by studying its effect on rats. They discovered that after
rats were fed a diet high in sugar, they experienced symptoms similar to
those produced by drug withdrawal when the sugar was withdrawn,
including shaking and changes in brain chemistry. The study therefore
concluded what other researchers have also suggested; that it is
possible to become severely dependent on sugar.
4. Burgers and other processed meat
Numerous researchers and studies have suggested that fatty, processed
junk food such as burgers may actually be addictive. According to
Professor David Kessler, an ex-commissioner of the US Food and Drug
Administration and author of "The End of Overeating," the combination of
fat, salt and sugar in junk food triggers our "bliss point" and leaves
us wanting more.
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida backed up
this theory with a study which found that the addictive responses in the
brains of rats when fed junk food including fatty meats were the same
as in those that consume cocaine or heroin. On top of this, meat -- like
chocolate, cheese and sugar -- releases opiate-like substances during
digestion which some studies have suggested can leave us craving more.
Many feel that they can't start the day without a cup of coffee and
people often joke about having a caffeine "addiction," however this may
not be far from the truth. Although there has been much debate over the
years about whether or not caffeine is genuinely addictive, it is
difficult to deny that many of us crave it to the point where we feel we
can't function without it.
One reason that people may crave caffeine so much is due to the
fairly severe symptoms of caffeine withdrawal that people often face,
ranging from fatigue and headaches to irritability and depression.
However, it may be that, rather than being physically dependent on
caffeine, you are actually addicted to the belief that you can't
function without your morning cup of coffee. Whatever the reason,
caffeine remains the world's most popular drug and a staple of many
daily routines. Read more at www.realbuzz.com.