It’s no secret that high sugar and fat contents in American food is a bigger issue than most people want to think about. Realistically, we all love our occasional midnight pizza roll binges, but we all should definitely be paying more attention to what we’re putting into our bodies.

There are many recent studies that have yielded results that should raise a red flag for everyone reading: junk foods like ice cream, Oreos, and Cheetos, for example, are more addictive than cocaine and other hard drugs.

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Let me break it down for you.

Inside all of our brains is a series of connections between different cerebral areas that creates what is called our “reward pathway.” In the case of eating, simply put, your reward pathway receives input that you’re enjoying the food you’re eating and it sends a signal saying that you want more of that specific food.

At a basic level, this is where addiction comes into play. The positive reward model of addiction is when drug use (or food consumption) becomes controlled by an insuppressible desire for the positive reward or feeling that naturally occurs in response taking that drug (or eating that food).

Two major cerebral areas involved in the reward pathway are the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens because these areas are very dense in dopamine receptors. Dopamine is a chemical released by our brains and it is notorious for playing a big role in happiness, among many other very important control functions throughout the body.

When neurons in our brains get a specific stimulus from somewhere else in the body, they release dopamine molecules to bind to dopamine receptors on nearby receiving neurons in order to pass on the message. Basically, it works like a chain-reaction.

Cocaine, and many other drugs, work by binding to dopamine transporters, which are responsible for recycling the dopamine molecules that were previously used to send a message. When cocaine binds to the dopamine transporters, the transporters are made inactive and can’t take up the dopamine after it’s used in signaling. This leaves the dopamine free to continuously bind to the receiving cell, causing the euphoric high and happiness associated with many drugs.

Junk Food

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Many different experiments using various types of junk foods have shown repeatedly that in rat models, junk food activated more neurons in the reward pathway and pleasure centers of the brains than did cocaine.

The rats also exhibit signs of extreme withdrawal symptoms when not given junk food after a period of time. Withdrawal is caused when your body becomes accustomed to drug use, or frequent junk food consumption, and it creates a new internal balance based around the consistent interactions with the drug, or food, in your brain.

If someone were to stop taking a certain drug, or eating a lot of junk food, after they had been doing so for a while, they would experience withdrawal, which is their body’s way of trying to restore its balance. This is why once we start on an unhealthy binge, it becomes increasingly difficult to reverse our habit.

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Scientists’ theory is that the high sugar and fat contents in junk food stimulate the brain in similar ways to the addictive drugs we’ve always been told to stay away from.

So, if you’ve ever been casually eating Oreos and suddenly a whole sleeve was gone, blame your brain. As weird as the idea of “food addiction” may be, the results of these studies should be more of a wake-up call than something to laugh off.

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Everyone knows that Americans are stereotyped as being overweight food-lovers, but is the label really as offensive as we make it seem if it’s completely factual? A study by Everyday Health brings to light the sad truth that, as a whole, we are as fat as the world makes us out to be. In America, 66 percent of adults are overweight or obese, compared to the rest of the world, where only 37 percent of adults are overweight or obese. This is combined with 29 percent of American children being overweight or obese, compared to the world’s 14 percent.

Junk Food

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In both incidences, Americans nearly double world numbers. Broken down by sex, 71 percent of American men and 62 percent of American women are overweight or obese, compared to 38 percent of men and 37 percent of women in the rest of the world.

With extremely high national incidences of diabetes and heart disease the leading cause of death in the world, our diets should be much more of a concern than they currently are.

Massive food corporations aren’t keeping our best health interests in mind when they’re creating the recipes for their new sweet treats, because they only care about selling the product. We all need to be more conscious of the fact that anything is okay in moderation; it’s when unhealthy eating is a habit that it becomes an issue, or even an accidental addiction.

For example, I’m completely addicted to ice cream. I’m the first person to support eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting (if you love B&J’s too, you have to check out this recipe) and it’s no secret that when I don’t have it for a day or two I start to crave it. Why should you care? Because I know so many of you reading this have your own guilty pleasure food that you can’t go without eating. Now you know that what you previously thought was just you really, really liking something is actually your brain becoming hooked. Kinda freaky right?

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With that being said, there’s no need to be cray about it, because unhealthy snacks every once in a while aren’t going to kill you. You still need to treat yo self, just make sure you’re mindful of serving sizes while you’re doing it. So you keep on eating those cookies because I know I’m still going to.