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    New Zealand scientists have reported that heavily processed foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) could be addictive in a similar way to drugs.

    Simon Thornley, from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, noted that foods with a high GI caused blood-sugar levels to escalate suddenly, with the resultant sugar rush stimulating the same areas of the brain associated with addiction to drugs such as nicotine. Low-GI foods, on the other hand, provide a more steady release of sugar.

    He believes that high sugar and fat products are often consumed because they are addictive. “The key component of those foods which may predict their addictive potential is glycaemic index or how fast you get a sugary hit,” he told ABC radio. “We’ve looked at some of the issues around automaticity or the sort of automatic nature of eating. The food environment seems to determine people’s ability to eat. If sugary foods are around, not surprisingly, they seem to be eaten more frequently.”

    Mr Thornley did admit that much more research needed to be completed before a conclusion could be reached, with extensive studies comparing food withdrawal symptoms to nicotine withdrawal symptoms to be carried out.