The most addictive foods in the world have been identified in a new study, although many of the selections are not surprising. Pizza, French fries and chocolate were found to be the foods that were hardest for people to resist.

University of Michigan researchers found people with a high body mass index (BMI) were also likely to overindulge in processed foods, including the three foods identified as the most addictive.

Earlier studies examining animals in a controlled environment found that foods with high concentrations of refined carbohydrates or fats, such as sugar and white flour, could create behaviors similar to those seen in addictions. Salmon, brown rice and other processed foods did not create similar behaviors among the animal subjects.

Human studies have shown that some people meet criteria for substance dependence for certain foods. People who report symptoms similar to food addiction, as well as those with high BMI's, often reported having trouble resisting processed foods. It is possible that these comfort foods may be associated with rewards.

"This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response. This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of 'cutting back' on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use," Nicole Avena of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said.

Many people casually state they are "addicted" to foods, such as doughnuts from the neighborhood bakery. However, actual addiction to specific foods is a controversial idea that has never been proven. This study was one of the few to ever address this question in a systematic fashion.

A total of 504 subjects were asked to analyze their eating habits, answering questions about how often they ate until they felt ill, or sleepy.

Pizza was found to be the most addictive food, followed by chocolate, potato chips, and cookies. The least problematic food in the study was found to be brown rice, followed by apples, beans, and carrots.

Most of the problem foods were those with high glycemic loads, which significantly raise blood glucose levels.

"Several studies really do suggest that highly-palatable, highly-processed foods can produce behaviors and changes in the brain that one would use to diagnose an addiction, like drugs and alcohol," Avena said.

Drugs can alter brain circuitry, as well as behavior. Future research will examine if foods are also capable of creating similar changes in human beings.

Identification of the most addicting foods, and analysis of what could be responsible for these feelings, was profiled in the journal Plos One.

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