Yes, Pizza is Addicting: Study Finds That High-Glycemic Load Foods Are Most Problematic

Saying that foods like chocolate, potato chips or pizza are "addicting" may not be an exaggeration, according to a new study.

While past research has shown an association between addictive eating behavior and processed foods in animals, it's been unclear exactly what foods might cause this same response in humans.

New findings published in PLOS ONE suggest that foods with a higher glycemic load (GL), typically those with refined carbohydrates and added fat, may trigger addictive eating behavior.

"If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children," said lead study author Erica Schulte, psychology doctoral student at the University of Michigan.

Understanding food 'addiction'

In the study, the foods most closely associated with addictive eating behaviors included pizza (which was number one on the list), followed by chocolate, chips, cookies and ice cream. At the bottom of the list were foods like cucumbers, carrots and apples.

A food's glycemic load indicates not only how many carbohydrates are in it, but also how quickly or slowly the carbohydrates are absorbed in the body once consumed.

Diabetics can typically benefit from a low-GL diet for the purposes of keeping blood sugar stable, but the study also suggests there are other reasons to avoid high-GL foods: glycemic load of a food was more predictive of addictive eating behaviors than sugar or net carbohydrate count, the study authors wrote.

According to co-author Nicole Avena, understanding exactly how food addiction works can help change the way physicians address patients with metabolic problems, like obesity or diabetes.

"This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response," Avena said.

Source: University of Michigan

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