The Top 10 Addictive Foods List

The University of Ann Arbor recently collected research from more than 500 participants on the Top 10 most addictive foods. Learn how they impact your health and what steps you can take to prevent just one more helping. Or two. Or three.

The Research Model

The research included a 2 part survey. Part one relied on the Yale Food Addiction Scale which asked 25 questions including:

  1. I find that when I start eating certain foods, I end up eating much more than planned.
  2. I find that when certain foods are not available, I will go out of my way to obtain them. For example, I will drive to the store to purchase certain foods even though I have other options available to me at home.
  3. I have consumed certain foods to prevent feelings of anxiety, agitation or other physical symptoms that were developing.

The second part had participants rate various foods on a scale of 1 (least) to 7 (most problematic.)

shutterstock_443376493The Results

The top 10 most addictive foods, in order of those with the greatest addictive properties are:

  1. Pizza
  2. Chocolate
  3. Potato Chips
  4. Cookies
  5. Ice Cream
  6. French Fries
  7. Cheeseburgers
  8. Soda
  9. Cake
  10. Cheese

Except for cheese, each of these is highly processed, high in fat and added sugar and or salt. One of my favorite foods is cookie dough ice cream which accounts for 1/3 of those listed in one scoop! The obvious problem with these foods is that they are calorie-rich and nutrient-weak. When consumed in excess, they not only cause us to gain weight, but they make heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure harder to control.

What Makes It Addictive?

High concentrations of fat and refined carbohydrates in junk food enter our system more rapidly than more unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, meat, nuts and beans that contain fiber, protein and water. The U of M researchers found that these highly processed foods were absorbed, processed and excreted in the same manner as addictive drugs. This research, along with previous studies on both animals and humans, has shown that these foods provide a very quick, satisfying and pleasurable reward in the brain. Like cocaine and heroin, these top 10 foods are more apt to trigger feel-good chemicals like dopamine. In some people, a connection is hardwired between the food and the reward, and the urge to consume it again and again begins. The craving for more dopamine overrides any feelings of fullness or that you’ve satisfied the craving. Some people may need to eat more to reach the same level of pleasure over time, as the reward centers become less effective.

Treatment Options

To date, neither the American Medical Association nor the American Psychological Association has formally recognized food addiction as a disease which hinders treatment options. It’s important for people who suspect they or a loved one may have a food addiction to seek the help of a registered dietitian, psychologist or doctor trained to help break the addiction cycle. Online resources include:

The researchers in the U of M study hope that their findings positively impact nutrition guidelines and public policy, especially when it comes to marketing these foods to children. While many of us aren’t clinically addicted to these foods, this research should be a warning to us that we need to reward our taste buds with healthy, wholesome foods like berries, melons, carrots and nuts.  Your taste buds learn to love the one they are with, so reward them in a manner that doesn’t harm your health.



Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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