For anyone struggling to maintain a healthy weight, having an unhealthy relationship with food or feeling dependent on junk food can be a major factor.
Now, a new study by the University of Michigan has suggested that this could be down to addiction. The researchers found that 13% of people between the ages of 50 and 80 have shown signs of an addiction to high-calories foods or drinks in the last month.
What is junk food addiction?
Research has shown that highly processed foods that are high in sugar, fat, and simple starches trigger a response in the brain similar to other addictive substances like tobacco.
During the study, the researchers defined addiction as having intense cravings or an inability to cut down on their intake, as well as any typical signs of withdrawal. To be considered an addiction, the participants needed to display at least two out of eleven signs of addiction.
According to one of the psychologists involved in the study, Dr. Ashley Gearhardt: “Just as with smoking or drinking, we need to identify and reach out to those who have entered unhealthy patterns of use and support them in developing a healthier relationship with food.”
The results of the study
The data which was collected by the National Poll on Healthy Aging found that women and older adults were more likely to struggle with food addiction, especially when they had poor physical or mental health, were overweight, or described themselves as lonely.
The results show that, in total, 17% of adults aged 50 to 64 and 8% of adults aged 65-80 show some signs of food addiction.
Among women with poor or fair physical health, 32% had signs of a junk food addiction, compared with 14% of men. This was almost twice as high as those with good, very good, or excellent physical health.
For those with poor mental health, the figures were even higher, with 45% of women and 23% of men showing signs of being addicted to high-calorie foods.