Many people claim to be chocoholics, but can you really be addicted to chocolate?
The answer is... perhaps. One reason many people feel "addicted" to chocolate is that
the food's chemical compounds (including theobromine, phenyethylamine, anandamide and tryptophan)
actually have pleasure-inducing effects that can mimic the effects of drugs on the brain.
Chocolate also contains alkaloids (tetrahydro-beta-carbolines) which are present in alcohol
and have been linked to alcoholism.
However - before you go booking yourself into Chocoholics Anonymous - it is important to note
that many researchers have pointed out that the chemicals in chocolate also exist in other foods
which most of us do not crave. It has also been suggested that the chemicals in chocolate are
not in high enough doses to lead to addiction. Regardless, it is impossible to deny that
chocolate is one of the world's most-craved foods -
whether this is due to psychological reasons or a physical addiction.
From pizzas to cheeseburgers, cheese is a staple of many widely-craved junk foods,
but there could be more to our cravings than we think.
Various studies have discovered the presence of opiates -
including the highly addictive morphine - in the popular dairy product.
While the amounts of morphine in cheese are very small and probably not enough to cause addiction,
some researchers have expressed concern about its levels of casein (the main protein in cheese) which produces morphine-like opiate compounds called casomorphins during digestion.
On top of this, cheese also contains phenylethylamine, a substance with stimulant effects
which is thought to give consumers a natural "high", and which is reputed to have addictive qualities.
We all know that sugar is bad for our health but, according to numerous studies,
it can also be addictive. Studies have suggested that when we eat sugar, chemicals
called opioids are released by the brain, which leads to an intense feeling of pleasure.
It is this feeling that people may crave in the absence of sugar.
A study by psychologists at Princeton University investigated sugar addiction
by studying its effect on rats.
They discovered that after rats were fed a diet high in sugar, they experienced symptoms
similar to those produced by drug withdrawal when the sugar was withdrawn,
including shaking and changes in brain chemistry.
The study therefore concluded what other researchers have also suggested;
that it is possible to become severely dependent on sugar.
Burgers and other
Numerous researchers and studies have suggested that fatty, processed junk food such as burgers
may actually be addictive. According to Professor David Kessler - an ex-commissioner of the US Food and
Drug Administration and author of The End of Overeating - the combination of fat, salt and sugar
in junk food triggers our "bliss point" and leaves us wanting more.
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida backed up this theory with a study which found
that the addictive responses in the brains of rats when fed junk food including fatty meats were the
same as in those that consume cocaine or heroin. On top of this, meat - like chocolate, cheese and
sugar - releases opiate-like substances during digestion which some studies have suggested
can leave us craving more.
Many feel that they can't start the day without a cup of coffee and people often joke about
having a caffeine "addiction", however this may not be far from the truth.
Although there has been much debate over the years about whether or not caffeine is genuinely addictive,
it is difficult to deny that many of us crave it to the point where we feel we can't function without it.
One reason that people may crave caffeine so much is due to the fairly severe symptoms of
caffeine withdrawal that people often face, ranging from fatigue and headaches to irritability
However, it may be that, rather than being physically dependent on caffeine, you are actually
addicted to the belief that you can't function without your morning cup of coffee.
Whatever the reason, caffeine remains the world's most popular drug and a staple of many daily routines.