High levels of fat, sugar and salt trigger pleasure sensors similar to ones activated by tobacco, drugs and alcohol, new research reveals…
Listen up fast food lovers – your favourite meal could be just as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
Chemical processes triggered by the high quantities of fat, sugar and salt hidden in burgers and milkshakes give people the same cravings as hard drugs, tobacco or alcohol do, scientists have found, according to the New Scientist.
Researchers discovered earlier this year that laboratory rats became addicted to a bad diet in the same way that people became dependent on hard drugs.
Now experiments with humans have found that junk food does indeed lead to addiction-like cravings. When people are shown pictures of their favourite foods, a decision-making area of the brain called the orbital frontal cortex experiences a surge of dopamine. The same area is activated when cocaine addicts are shown a bag of white power.
As a result, more and more food is needed to achieve a pleasurable feeling of satisfaction, and the weight piles on. The findings could lead to claims for compensation against fast-food firms similar to those launched against tobacco companies, and calls for cigarette-style health warnings to be placed on boxes and wrappers.
The research comes as Britain fights a rising tide of obesity, with weight loss surgery alone costing the NHS more than £32million a year.