Foods like cornflakes, biscuits and soft drinks are as addictive as drugs, and now researchers have discovered why people get hooked to certain eatables.
New Zealand scientists explained that these and other heavily processed foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) trigger an addictive sugar rush, which could be difficult to resist and may lead to obesity.
Thus, scientists have warned that such food items could face the danger of advertising bans, strict regulations, high taxes and health warning labels.
After analysing evidence showing compulsive food consumption has similar underlying brain mechanisms that result in drug dependence, scientists have argued that heavily processed carbohydrates are most likely to cause addiction.
Lead researcher Simon Thornley, from Auckland Regional Public Health Service, said foods with a high GI caused blood-sugar levels to spike suddenly.
Such rush of sugar fuels the same areas of the brain linked with addiction to nicotine and other drugs.
Foods with low-GI get the blood sugar and insulin levels soaring, and also triggers a feeling of contentment and satiety.
In his opinion, the theory, if proven, could have important public health implications.
It was the first time that scientists have named GI as a predictor of the addictive potential of foods.
Thornley said that according to evidence, people who ate too much of high-carb foods experienced symptoms of addiction - loss of control, a compulsion to keep taking higher amounts to get the same buzz.
And all these people also suffered withdrawal if they went without eating such foods.
The researchers also said that just like those addicted to cocaine and alcohol, people with a higher body mass index had fewer brain pleasure receptors.
However, people addicted to carbohydrates may benefit from getting their hit of blood sugar more slowly by eating low-GI foods or even using a food version of the nicotine patch.
"Just as slow release forms of nicotine help smokers recover from addiction, low GI foods may reduce cravings in obese or overweight populations," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Thornley and his colleagues at the University of Auckland as saying.
Their study was published in the journal Medical Hypotheses.