Studies show that some foods are inherently more addictive than others, producing narcotic-like reactions in our brains which often overcome our will power. In most cases a combination of fats, sugars as well as other addictive chemicals like caffeine trigger feelings of pleasure and well being, which we seek in time of anxiety and stress. Interestingly, stopping consumption of addictive foods can even produce withdrawal symptoms. See NewsOne’s list of addictive foods below.
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1) Ice Cream
Similar to people suffering from substance abuse, ice cream addicts show reduced activity in brain regions associated with self-control, according to a study published in the Archive of General Psychiatry. Ice cream, like many other addictive foods sets off a powerful dopamine response in the brain that makes us happy.
Chocolate contains a number of ingredients, including phenylethylamine, theobromine, anandamide and tryptophan that trigger mood enhancing chemicals like serotonin as well as neurotransmitters in the brain that create a sense of well being. According to psychologist Chocolate is most frequently craved food by women. They also claim abstinence from chocolate even leads to withdrawal symptoms.
Scientist first discovered the addictive properties of cheese in the early 1980’s when they found a substance in dairy products that resembled morphine. Surprisingly, they discovered that the enzymes that produce opiates are also found in cows’ livers. According to Neal Barnard the managing director of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Casein, the main dairy protein, release tiny opiate molecules, called casomorphins, which have about one-tenth the opiate strength of morphine.
Few people realize but caffeine is the most popular drug in the world. Used mostly for its stimulant properties, roughly 10 percent of people drink coffee, while many more drink caffeine-laden soft drinks. Like amphetamines, caffeine increases dopamine levels activating pleasure centers in the brain, Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine told National Geographic. For many, caffeine is also addictive because of its inclusion into our morning rituals. Withdrawal symptoms often include headaches, insomnia, nervousness, increased stress, and exhaustion just to name a few.
Researchers say the high-fat content of fast food affects the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. According to Paul J. Kenny, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular therapeutics at the Scripps Research Institute, fast food like cocaine and other illicit drugs gradually overload the pleasure centers in the brain, filling us with a sense of well being. Not to mention, most fast food meals combine high levels of fat with sodium as well as caffeine, all which have addictive properties.
According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Potato Chips are addicting because of their high fat content as well as their extreme levels of salt. Researchers claim increased salt levels decrease activity in stress systems of the brain. While they also increase levels of oxytocin, a chemical known as the love hormone for its role in helping to create social bonds, between friends, lovers or parents and children.
Like many of the other addicting foods, cake offers a combination of sugars and fats that not only satisfy our taste buds, but register in the pleasure centers of the brain in much the same way as cocaine, according to findings from a report published in the journal NeuroImage by Brookhaven National Laboratory. For this reason, cake is commonly described as a comfort food, a food people eat to calm their feelings of stress and anxiety and provide a general sense of well being. Cake is also known for its presence at birthdays and other traditional celebrations, which delivers a sense of well being through its association with happy times.
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