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Is junk food addictive?

Is junk food addictive?

Results from a three year trial has found rats fed a café style diet of high fat, high sugar foods tended to overeat and underwent neuro-chemical changes in their brains, similar to those experienced by people with a drug addiction.

The research results (published this year), by Nature Neuroscience, a scientific print and online journal, also found that the same rats would also endure starvation, rather than eat a more salad-type diet, which is the traditional food for rats.

Angela Berrill, one of New Zealand’s leading nutritionists, said this research could indicate that people eating a high fat, high sugar diet will tend to overeat and may have a junk food addiction; making it difficult for them to lose weight on their own.

“The results of the trial certainly provide us with some insights of a possible link between junk food and addictive behaviour - but the real issue we face in New Zealand is people not understanding how to manage their food intake, or more importantly, portion control,” said Ms Berrill.

“Most takeaway options are high in fat and sugar, and thus in energy. Regular consumption of these foods can lead to weight gain in individuals who are not burning this additional energy off.”

Amy Smith, managing director of Jenny Craig New Zealand, said the recent findings about junk-food addiction are not a surprise.

“New Zealand’s obesity statistics rate as one of the top five in the world. The fact there are now so many take-away options, most of which are consumed far too regularly, certainly doesn’t help New Zealand’s obesity figures.”

Ms Smith said there is no question that obesity is one of the most important preventable public health issues New Zealand faces now, and into the future.

Ms Smith said sustained education, motivation and supervision are needed by people who have obesity issues if we’re to make any progress as a nation.

“Our research has proven that people are much more likely to succeed with their weight loss when they have the support of a weight management programme such as Jenny Craig.

“The Jenny Craig programme teaches men and women the skills they need to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. And people who join the Jenny Craig program learn lifelong strategies for losing and maintaining weight with the ongoing support of a personal consultant.”


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