Ice Cream and Potato Chips Can Be as Addictive as Drugs


A recent study has revealed that the addictive potential of ultra-processed foods (UPFs), including popular snacks like potato chips and ice cream, often containing high levels of unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt.

These commonly consumed foods can be just as addictive as substances like nicotine, cocaine, or heroin.

This comprehensive study analyzed data from 281 research studies conducted across 36 different countries. The results revealed a concerning statistic: a staggering 14% of adults were found to be addicted to UPFs.

UPFs include a wide range of heavily processed foods, including sugary beverages, processed meats, and pre-packaged snacks. Their high content of unhealthy ingredients, combined with industrial processing methods, makes them particularly concerning from a health perspective.


The study’s authors point to a crucial factor behind the addictive nature of UPFs: the combination of refined carbohydrates and fats present in these foods seems to have a profound impact on the brain’s reward systems. This effect exceeds that of either macronutrient alone, potentially increasing the addictive potential of these widely available, convenience foods.

In their recent findings published in The BMJ, the study’s authors highlight that UPFs are not only more likely to trigger cravings but also to lead to continued consumption, even when individuals are aware of the potential negative health consequences.

The consequences of these findings are significant for public health. UPFs are strongly associated with a range of chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Therefore, experts are calling for greater awareness of the addictive nature of UPFs and supporting for measures to help individuals reduce their consumption of these less-than-healthy, yet often enticing, food products.

As the study underscores, understanding the addictive qualities of UPFs is a critical step toward promoting healthier dietary choices and ultimately reducing the occurrence of diet-related chronic diseases in society.

Ammara Ahmed

Ammara Ahmed

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