Experts say highly processed foods should be regulated as drugs

With an obesity rate at nearly 42%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s no secret America has a weight problem — and most experts point the finger at highly processed foods that make up much of the American diet. 

It’s such an issue, in fact, that researchers want these foods labeled as drugs, because such food is just as addictive, and nearly as harmful, as cigarettes.

Dr. Ashley Gearhardt, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, tells the that highly processed foods not only cause obesity, but have led to a spike in diagnoses of colon, breast and other cancers in people.

Just as cigarettes were deemed a delivery mechanism for the addictive chemical nicotine, the researchers say processed foods have similar properties. 

“They are industrial produced substances designed to deliver sugar and fat,” Virginia Tech health behaviors research professor Dr. Alexandra DiFeliceantonio says. “They are not foods anymore. These are these products that have been really well-designed to deliver addictive substances.”

What’s more, chips, pizza, ice cream and the like also trigger dopamine receptors in the brain; this means they boost the feeling of well-being when you eat them — something that’s both physically and psychologically addictive.

Gearhardt tells the website, “People want to cut down, people go on diets and a vast majority of people fail. They find it difficult to do so even when they know it’s going to kill them.”

The dangers of these foods still exist, “even if you are skinny,” she warns.

What’s more, the products are also being aggressively marketed to kids — so the researchers want the Federal Trade Commission to put a stop to that, like the agency did when it forced Camel cigarettes to stop using Joe Camel as a brand mascot.