Scientists say doughnuts, chips and pizza should be redefined as DRUGS
Highly processed food should be classified as a drug because it is as addictive and harmful as cigarettes, say scientists.
Researchers argue that products such as doughnuts, sugary cereals and pizzas meet the official criteria that declared cigarettes a drug in the 1990s.
These include causing compulsive use and mood-altering effects on the brain, and having addictive or craving-inducing properties or ingredients.
Ultra-processed foods—which also include things like soda, chips, pastries, and candy—contain large amounts of unnatural flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners.
These properties give them their delicious taste – but also make them high in calories, fat, sugar or salt, which increase the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.
Researchers led by Dr. Ashley Gearhardt, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, told DailyMail.com that these foods are more like drugs because they are so far removed from natural foods in taste and texture.
“These are industrially produced substances designed to deliver sugar and fat,” said Dr. Alexandra DiFeliceantoni, a professor of health behavior research at Virginia Tech University.
‘They are no longer food. These are products that are really well designed to deliver addictive substances.’
Researchers want the marketing of these foods to children to be limited, in the same way that nicotine advertising cannot be targeted at children. But they stopped short of calling for a total age ban.
Highly processed food should be classified as a drug because it is as addictive and harmful as cigarettes, according to scientists
Dr. Ashley Gearhardt (left), a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, said HPFs are more like medicine than food. dr.
America’s obesity crisis is largely linked to the prevalence of ultra-processed foods. These foods are believed to make up about 50 percent of the American diet.
As a result, about 70 percent of Americans are overweight according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 40 percent are classified as obese.
Dr. Gearhardt warned that even people who are at a healthy weight are still at risk of developing cancer and other problems from eating unhealthy foods.
The foods have been linked to an increase in diseases such as colorectal cancer and kidney cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease in the US, among other diseases.
A constant increase in blood sugar, through eating sugary foods, can also lead to diabetes.
At least one in five premature deaths is directly linked to ultra-processed foods like pizza, cake and soda
One in five premature deaths is directly linked to ultra-processed food, the first study of its kind has found.
High-calorie foods like pizza, cakes, and hot dogs are often loaded with sugar, salt, and fat—which increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
Researchers in Brazil estimated that in 2019, the deaths of around 57,000 Brazilians between the ages of 30 and 69 could be attributed to highly processed snacks.
This accounted for nearly 22 percent of preventable deaths in that age group and 10 percent of all premature deaths.
Experts said that in high-income countries like the US, Canada and the UK – where junk food consumption is higher – the estimated impact would be even greater.
Lead study author Dr Eduardo Nilson, a nutritionist at the University of São Paulo, said: ‘UPF consumption is associated with many disease outcomes, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers and other diseases, and is a significant cause of premature preventable deaths among Brazilian adults.’
He added: ‘To our knowledge, no study to date has assessed the potential impact of UPF on premature death.
‘Knowing the deaths attributable to consumption of these foods and modeling how changes in dietary patterns can support more effective food policies can prevent disease and premature death.
A shocking study published in September, which found that rates of early breast, colon and pancreatic cancer are rising globally, also pointed to this food as a culprit.
Brazilian researchers published the study earlier this week suggested that one in five premature deaths in the South American nation was linked to processed food.
Now experts are calling for them to be regulated in a similar way to nicotine.
In 1988, Dr. Charles Everett Koop, who served as the US Surgeon General for President Ronald Reagan, published 600 pages nicotine addiction report.
At the time, more than half of American adults smoked cigarettes, but the long-term effects of their use were relatively unknown.
Dr. Koop used three key metrics, compulsive use, mood alteration, and reinforcement to determine that nicotine is addictive.
Last year, scientists determined that the desire for a cigarette, which many chronic users consider to be the fourth pillar of addiction.
Dr. Gearhardt and Dr. DiFeliceantoni applied the standards used to determine that nicotine is an addictive substance to highly processed foods.
The first was compulsive use, which they described as a person wanting to eat food even when they were aware of how unhealthy it was.
‘People want to cut down, people go on diets and the vast majority of people fail,’ Dr Gearhardt told DailyMail.com.
‘It’s hard for them to do it even when they know it will kill them.’
She blamed the fat and sugar content of food for causing an addictive response in the brain.
Although more research on junk foods is needed to determine exactly how they affect the brain, she believes the speed at which the body processes them may play a role.
These quick hits are similar to how nicotine, alcohol and cocaine work throughout the body, researchers say.
The high sugar and fat content in these foods also affects dopamine receptors in the brain.
‘It affects your health or mood in a way that affects the brain,’ explained Dr. DiFeliceantoni.
The two researchers describe it as a ‘psychoactive’ effect that a person will need to consume more highly processed snacks to get high again – just like with other drugs.
Processed foods also have a ‘reinforcement’ effect, whereby a person may crave food even when they don’t need it.
Dr Gearhardt uses the example of a person with healthy food in the fridge who decides to go out and buy chocolate ice cream because of their addiction.
People may also crave their favorite junk foods, looking for the impact that heavy fats and sugars have on the brain—fulfilling a fourth, later added, criterion.
Consuming these foods can cause serious negative health consequences over time.
“We know HPFs [highly-processed foods] consumption is linked to cancer… consumption [these]food increases the risk of cancer, even in a healthy person,’ she said.
‘If you’re skinny, you’re still at risk.’
The Michigan doctor points out that many of the tactics used by companies to sell cigarettes to youth in previous decades have not been used for HPF.
Like the way tobacco companies used figures like Joe Camel in the 1990s, many of these foods marketed to children also feature “cool” and colorful characters.
In 1963, the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company behind Joe Camel purchased Hawaiian Punch from its original manufacturer.
Originally developed as a cocktail mixer for adults, the tobacco company slapped a character named ‘Punchy’ into its sugary drink and began marketing it to children.
It was later sold to American manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble in 1990, but not before becoming famous.
In 1985, Philip Morris – the nation’s largest cigarette maker then and now – bought General Foods, which now owns popular, colorful, children’s cereals such as Trix, Lucky Charms and Coco Puffs.
The two scientists’ report did not specifically focus on products made by companies that are or were once owned by cigarette companies.
Dr Gearhardt says these are examples of industries using what they learned from selling nicotine to push another harmful drug.
Like how the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on nicotine marketing to children in the 1990s, both researchers want similar policies for HPF.
‘The consequences of this are becoming so severe that we need to take action,’ Dr Gearhardt added.
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