Scientists say that highly-processed foods like donuts, cereal, and pizza should be reclassified as drugs because they are as addictive and harmful as cigarettes.
A new report from DailyMail quotes researchers who say ultra-processed foods meet all of the official criteria that were used to list cigarettes as a drug in the 1990s.
University of Michigan researchers told DailyMail processed foods are similar to a drug because of how distinct they are from natural foods in texture and taste.
Dr. Ashley Gearhardt, a psychology professor who led the research team, warns that even people who are healthy are at higher risk for developing cancer and other serious health issues as a result of eating junk food.
“Of note, there is no biomarker in the brain that tells us whether something is addictive or not,” Gearhardt said. “Identifying that tobacco products were addictive really boiled down to these four criteria, (which) have stood up to decades of scientific evaluation. Highly processed foods meet every single one of these criteria.”
“We found that this risk is increasing with each generation. For instance, people born in 1960 experienced higher cancer risk before they turn 50 than people born in 1950 and we predict that this risk level will continue to climb in successive generations,” says Dr. Shuji Ogina, a professor at Brigam.
According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, processed foods are “any raw agricultural commodities that have been washed, cleaned, milled, cut, chopped, heated, pasteurized, blanched, cooked, canned, frozen, dried, dehydrated, mixed or packaged.”
A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found ultra processed foods are correlated with an increased risk of noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and all-cause mortality.
The researchers estimate that premature deaths of people aged 30 and 69 can be prevented by limiting intake of processed foods.
“They are industrial produced substances designed to deliver sugar and fat,” said Dr Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, a health behaviors research professor at Virginia Tech University. “They are not foods anymore. These are these products that have been really well designed to deliver addictive substances.”
Prior studies have shown that calorie dense and sugary foods like Oreo cookies are designed to stimulate our brain’s dopamine receptors, making people crave more of them.