Your Brain on Processed Foods

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/21/2023

Ever find yourself reaching for that third donut despite feeling full after the first? You're not alone. It's not just you - science explains why we can't say no to that third donut.

The culprits? Processed foods and sugar. They've wrapped us around their sweet little fingers like puppets on a string.

In this deep dive into processed food addiction, we'll explore how these tasty treats hook our brains faster than nicotine does from smoking. We'll also uncover some dark secrets about how big food companies play dirty to keep the truth under wraps.

You might be surprised at just how much your diet mirrors substance abuse patterns used to diagnose addiction disorders - it's more common than you think!

Stick with me as we navigate this fascinating yet alarming terrain of edible entrapment – because knowledge is power when it comes to breaking free!

The Addictive Nature of Processed Foods

It's no secret that processed foods are tasty, but did you know they can be as addictive as alcohol or drugs? This might sound shocking, but it’s backed by scientific research. It shows how these 'quick-fix' meals stimulate the brain's reward system.

The Speedy Impact of Sugar on the Brain

Let's consider sugar. You might love your sweet treats, but here is an eye-opening fact: sugar impacts our brains faster than nicotine does. Nicotine, the same found in tobacco products, can stimulate our brains at a much slower rate than sugar does.

A study published in PLOS ONE journal indicates that within seconds of consuming high-sugar food items like candy bars or soda drinks, there is increased activity in areas associated with rewards and cravings.

But this rush isn't free from consequences - excessive consumption often leads to addiction-like symptoms. This shows why resisting those tempting snacks lining supermarket shelves feels so hard – your brain has been wired to crave them.

Food Industry's Influence on Research and Laws

The food industry is not just about creating tasty products. It also involves a strategic play of power, often leading to the suppression of sugar research.

Suppression of Sugar Research

Sugar, a key component in many prepared foods, has been linked to diverse health issues. How much of this knowledge is accurate? The truth might surprise you.

A few instances have surfaced where food companies manipulated or suppressed research highlighting sugar consumption's harmful effects. By controlling what information reaches us, these corporations ensure their profits stay high while our awareness remains low.

Influencing Laws to Prevent Lawsuits

Laws are meant to protect consumers. But sometimes, they protect those who should be held accountable instead. Some corporations influence legislation to shield themselves from legal repercussions related to processed food consumption.

This leaves consumers vulnerable as they grapple with the adverse effects of consuming these addictive substances hidden under delicious disguises.

The Merging of Food and Diet Industries

When you think about it, the food industry buying up diet companies is like a fox guarding the henhouse. This unexpected development is occurring now. Big-name processed food manufacturers are snapping up weight loss programs and nutrition firms.

This is a startling development with potentially adverse consequences for customers. Imagine trying to get healthy advice from someone who profits when you eat more junk food. It's like asking a candy store owner for dental hygiene tips.

The New York Times reported that one of the largest global snack food producers purchased a famous diet brand in 2018. Since then, other major players have followed suit, merging their interests with those promoting healthier lifestyles.

In this topsy-turvy world where high-sugar brands become health gurus, we must stay vigilant as consumers. Remembering to question everything and making informed choices can help us navigate these tricky waters successfully.

Processed Foods and Substance Use Disorder Criteria

Did you know that processed foods might tick off the same boxes as substance use disorders? It's true. Let's explore this further.

Hazardous Use and Social Problems

The overconsumption of processed foods can be hazardous. Just like alcohol or drugs, these high-sugar, high-fat delights put your health at risk. But it doesn't stop there - social problems crop up, too.

You might find yourself avoiding healthy dinners with friends because they don’t serve pizza rolls or feeling guilty about sneaking an extra doughnut in the break room. Sounds familiar?

Neglected Roles and Withdrawal Symptoms

If you're dependent on junk food, responsibilities start to slip through your fingers, just like when someone is addicted to substances. Skipping gym sessions for chips and bingeing episodes ring any bells?

To top it all off, quitting cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings and cravings – eerily similar to what drug addicts experience during rehab.

The Severity of Processed Food Addiction

Understanding the severity of processed food addiction requires us to categorize it, much like we do with substance abuse disorders. The categories range from mild to severe based on how many criteria are met.

Mild Substance Abuse Disorder

If you meet two or three out of eleven criteria for substance use disorder, your condition can be considered mild. This doesn't mean that it's not severe. Would we label it a "light" difficulty if sugar was as addictive as cocaine and had no symptoms of withdrawal? Not.

Moderate Substance Abuse Disorder

You're looking at moderate addiction when four to five criteria are ticked off the list. It's like being stuck in traffic every day because you decided to take up donut-eating instead of jogging for exercise; frustrating but still manageable.

Severe Substance Abuse Disorder

A severe disorder is when six or more criteria have been met. Imagine replacing water with soda and fruits with candy bars in your diet daily; it sounds extreme, right? That's what severe looks like.


Probiotics and Sugar Abuse

Probiotics have gained attention in the context of sugar abuse and its potential impact on skin health, including fungal acne. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to imbalances in the body's microbiome, potentially contributing to the growth of acne-causing fungi.

Probiotics, with their ability to restore microbial balance, may help mitigate some of the adverse effects of sugar abuse on the skin.

When considering probiotics for fungal acne in the context of sugar abuse, it's essential to prioritize a holistic approach to skincare. Reducing sugar intake and maintaining a balanced diet are crucial for skin health.

Probiotics can be a valuable addition to this strategy, helping to support a healthier skin microbiome and potentially reducing the likelihood of fungal acne outbreaks.

Consulting with a dermatologist or healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance on incorporating probiotics into your skincare routine for optimal results.


Processed foods and addiction are intertwined in ways we can't ignore. They trigger our brains like substances such as nicotine, causing cravings that lead to overconsumption.

The food industry isn't helping. It has often manipulated research and influenced laws to avoid legal repercussions for the unhealthy effects of its products.

Even more alarming is how they're merging with diet industries - a move that might have implications for consumers trying to get healthy.

Your love for processed foods could even mirror substance abuse patterns used to diagnose addictions – it's not just about willpower anymore!

Let's take control back! With awareness comes power: use this knowledge wisely, making healthier choices one day at a time.

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