March 23, 2023

More than one in eight middle-aged and older Americans are addicted to ultra-processed foods, a national survey suggests.

It found that 13 percent of adults ages 50 to 80 show signs of food addiction, including physical withdrawals, eating more than planned and an inability to cut back.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they had at least one of the symptoms described in the simple 11-question questionnaire, which you can complete yourself below.

Experts who spoke to last year called for junk food to be reclassified as drugs.

Scroll down to take the test and find out if you’re addicted to junk food

1675191297 171 One In Eight Us Adults Are Addicted To Highly Processed


In the study, authored by researchers at the University of Michigan, respondents are asked to indicate whether they meet at least two of 11 criteria for food addiction, plus significant distress two to three times a week on at least one of the latter. items of distress or disorder.

If you answer yes to at least two of the symptoms below, you could be addicted to highly processed foods, which are any foods that have been altered in some way during preparation.

I have such a strong urge to eat certain foods that I can’t think about anything else at least once a week.

I’ve tried cutting back or stopping certain foods two to three times a week, but it didn’t work.

My tolerance for food has increased, so I don’t feel as satisfied as I used to

I spend too much time getting and consuming junk food

I have given up time spent on recreational and occupational activities

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I overeat to the point of causing emotional distress at least once a week

I am unable to meet obligations at least once a month

Even when there is an increased risk of physical injury, such as while driving, I eat at least once a month

I often feel tired or lethargic due to overeating

I ate to the point where I felt physically ill at least once a week

I treat withdrawal symptoms in response to abstinence or reduced consumption of ultra-processed foods, such as headaches, fatigue and irritability

Because of my eating behavior I suffer a lot two to three times a week

At least twice a week in my life I have significant problems due to my eating habits, such as problems with my daily routine, work, school, family or health.

Eating a lot of highly processed foods can have several negative health effects that increase a person’s risk of serious health problems such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The results came from the last National Poll on Healthy Aging conducted by the University of Michigan

Scientists believe this is because such foods activate the same reward pathways in the brain that mediate drug addiction. Eating junk food creates a surge of dopamine in the brain.

The questionnaire asked respondents to report experiencing at least two of a list of 11 indicators of food addiction, in addition to two more questions measuring how much their lives have been affected by their addiction.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they had at least one of the symptoms described in the questionnaire.

Women were more likely than men to be addicted to ultra-processed foods such as sweets, salty snacks, sugary drinks and fast food. Addiction to ultra-processed foods was also found in 17 percent of adults ages 50 to 64, and eight percent of adults ages 65 to 80, as well as 22 percent of women ages 50 to 64 and 18 percent of women ages 50 up to 80 years.

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Men and women who already considered themselves to be in poor physical shape were more than twice as likely to show signs of addiction — 32 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, junk food addiction was also seen in 45 percent of women who say their mental health is fair or poor, and 23 percent of men who say the same. That is three times higher than the percentages among those who say their mental health is excellent, very good or good.

Addiction was also seen in more than half of women reporting feelings of isolation, while 26 percent of men said the same.

UM psychologist Dr. Ashley Gearhardt saidThe word addiction may seem strong when it comes to food, but research has shown that our brains respond just as strongly to highly processed foods, especially those with the highest content of sugar, simple starches, and fat, as they do to tobacco, alcohol, and other addictive substances.’

Dr. Gearhardt, with the help of scientists at Yale University, developed the questionnaire used in the study, the Yale Food Addiction Scale.

“As with smoking or drinking, we need to identify and reach out to those who have entered into unhealthy patterns of use and support them in developing a healthier relationship with food,” she added.

Intense cravings were the most common symptom, with nearly one in four saying they had such an urge to eat a piece of junk food at least once a week that they couldn’t think of anything else. And 19 percent said they’d tried and failed to cut back or eliminate those foods at least twice a week.

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A propensity for highly processed foods significantly increases a person’s risk of developing obesity, which has become a major public health problem in America.

The number of obese Americans has been rising for decades, with four in 10 now medically overweight.

Poll director Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren, an associate professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine, said: “Clinicians need a better understanding of how food addiction and problem eating are intertwined with the physical and mental health of their patients, including chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. .’

“We need to understand that food cravings and behaviors are rooted in brain chemistry and heredity, and that some people may need extra help just as they would to quit smoking or drinking.”