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The Most Addictive Foods In America – What Causes Food Addiction

Food finds itself in difficult position when considered for addiction. In some circles, with obesity steadily increasing and the lethality of its affliction, how could the excess consumption of food not be recognized as an addiction? In other circles, human as a species need food and sustenance to survive, so how can its consumption be considered addictive? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR) doesn’t mention food addiction in their sources, leading to no formal designation, but as the holidays approach and food circumvents many minds, we will explore what studies show are the most addictive foods in America, which are the least addictive, and finally, why and how to approach a potential food addiction.

Findings From Food Addiction Studies by University of Michigan Using the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS)

The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) is a widely recognized tool used to assess the level of addiction present across a variety of foods. In the study results below, over 120 undergraduate students at the University of Michigan volunteered their experiences and habits with over 30 foods, and their findings made a lot of sense:

Top 5 Most Addictive Foods:

Top 5 Least Addictive Foods:

The individual foods, while entertaining to discuss, were not as thought-provoking as the final conclusion between processed and non-processed or foods. This study revealed 100% of the top addictive foods were highly processed foods, filled with fats and carbohydrates, while 100% of the least addictive foods were natural raw foods/liquids high in fiber and nutrients. This led us to explore what makes the trend of process foods leaning to more addictive behaviors.

What Makes Processed Foods So Addictive

Now that we know what foods report out as the most addictive it’s time to correlate why? The correlation in the study revealed that processed foods were the most addictive, when we found another correlation between processed foods and addictive drugs. Addictive drugs impact brain function, releasing high amounts of chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which overpower other brain signals, leaving users wanting more. These same chemicals are elevated when eating excess amounts of processed food. Sugars, carbs, and salty fats fire off signals in the brain rich with dopamine and serotonin which keep the brain craving more. It’s no wonder people can find themselves in high frequencies of addiction with these processed foods.

At Long Island Center for Recovery (LICR), there is no tailored treatment plan for an individual suffering with food addiction but our inpatient rehab program would still incorporate thee mental and cognitive behavioral aspects of an addictive client’s recovery. These would also include therapy sessions for individuals, families, and groups, as well as activities like the 12 Step Program and meditation practices all focus on strengthening clients mental health while overcoming their addiction.

We hope you found this information helpful and hope that you have an increased grasp on specific food addictions. If you or a loved one needs any additional assistance with addiction treatment services, please reach out to Long Island Center for Recovery at 631-728-3100, and we’d be happy to assist you or your loved ones in any way possible.


NCBI: National Library of Medicine: Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load

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